Project Summary

This research project is in progress. PCORI will post the research findings on this page within 90 days after the results are final.

PCORI has identified COVID-19 as an important research topic. Patients, clinicians, and others want to learn: What are effective ways to prevent or reduce the impact of COVID-19, especially on vulnerable populations and the healthcare workforce? To help answer this question, PCORI launched an initiative in 2020 to Strengthen Understanding of COVID-19 Impact and Inform Healthcare Responses. The initiative funded this research project and others.

What is the research about?

The COVID-19 pandemic is increasing stress in healthcare workers. Stress can affect mental and physical health and its effects can be severe and long-lasting. Stress First Aid, or SFA, is a peer-support program that teaches healthcare workers ways to cope with stress. The program uses peer-led training.

In this study, the research team is looking to see how well SFA improves healthcare workers’ well-being compared with usual care.

Who can this research help?

Healthcare organizations, including hospitals and clinics, may use these results when considering ways to support healthcare workers.

What is the research team doing?

The research team is enrolling about 40 healthcare sites to take part in the study. The team is assigning sites by chance to offer SFA or usual care.

At sites offering SFA, the research team is training one to four staff to serve as champions to promote the use of SFA. These staff review SFA materials and then attend a two-hour, web-based SFA training. After the training, these staff offer the SFA program to other healthcare workers at their site.

Across the study sites, the research team is starting SFA on a rolling basis in three groups. The team is using lessons learned from the sites that start SFA first to improve the program for the later sites.  

Sites offering usual care are continuing to support healthcare workers as they usually do.

The research team is conducting surveys and interviews with healthcare workers. The team is asking about

  • Symptoms of trauma
  • Distress
  • Sleep problems
  • Workplace stress
  • Ability to recover from stress
  • Burnout

Healthcare workers and patients are helping to design and recruit for the study.

Research methods at a glance

Design Elements Description
Design Cluster randomized controlled trial
Population 2,132 healthcare workers and patient-facing support staff (e.g., front desk staff) from about 40 healthcare sites across the United States
  • SFA
  • Usual care

Primary: symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder, general psychological distress

Secondary: sleep impairment, workplace stress, burnout, resilience, moral distress

Timeframe Up to 5-month follow-up for primary outcomes

Project Information

Lisa S. Meredith, PhD
Courtney Gidengil
RAND Corporation
Protecting the Mental and Physical Well-Being of Frontline Healthcare Workers During COVID-19

Key Dates

November 2023


Award Type
Health Conditions Health Conditions These are the broad terms we use to categorize our funded research studies; specific diseases or conditions are included within the appropriate larger category. Note: not all of our funded projects focus on a single disease or condition; some touch on multiple diseases or conditions, research methods, or broader health system interventions. Such projects won’t be listed by a primary disease/condition and so won’t appear if you use this filter tool to find them. View Glossary
Intervention Strategy Intervention Strategies PCORI funds comparative clinical effectiveness research (CER) studies that compare two or more options or approaches to health care, or that compare different ways of delivering or receiving care. View Glossary
State State The state where the project originates, or where the primary institution or organization is located. View Glossary
Last updated: October 18, 2023