Protecting and promoting the health of the large and rapidly expanding population of home health care workers is essential to the US health system’s ability to provide needed care at home. One persistent, unavoidable, and unaddressed stressor for home care workers is patient death.
To provide insight into which kinds of support provided to home care workers are associated with reduced grief, reduced stress, and increased job satisfaction, Assistant Professor Emma Tsui was awarded a three-year K01 grant from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
“The literature is rich with studies demonstrating the intimate, family-like relationships that home health aides often develop with patients and their families, which meaningfully contribute to quality of care,” Tsui says. “An important extension of this, however, as my colleagues and I learned in our preliminary research on this topic, is that aides often experience substantial unrecognized grief when patients die. This can impede their ability to work; at the same time, they typically lose a job when a patient dies, so patient death can create both stress and job insecurity.”
The study will use an in-depth, multimethod study design to describe the sources and types of support used by home care workers after the death of a patient. Tsui will also test the hypotheses that client death support is associated with reduced grief distress, reduced perceived stress, and increased job satisfaction, and develop feasible workplace-based interventions to increase client death support.
“This work is an important step toward the goal of reducing stress and turnover within this critical workforce, a disproportionate number of whom are women of color and immigrants,” Tsui says. “I’m privileged to be working with a small collection of New York City-based home care agencies for this project, including early partners Bestcare Inc. and Partners in Care who are committed to understanding this issue for their thousands of employed aides. We look forward to welcoming participation from other agencies and organizations as well.”
The grant involves mentors and collaborators from both within CUNY and outside: Sherry Baron from Queens College, Jennifer Zelnick from Touro College Graduate School of Social Work, Paul Landsbergis from SUNY Downstate School of Public Health, Kathrin Boerner from University of Massachusetts Boston, Jay Verkuilen from the CUNY Graduate Center, and Katarzyna Wyka from CUNY SPH.