CENTRAL Victoria health workers will share their experience working during the COVID-19 crisis, as Bendigo Health leads a world-first study into wellbeing.
It's the first study of its kind to dwell solely on the unique position of health workers in rural and regional areas.
The study will investigate the effects of stress on all healthcare workers, including those who directly treated people with COVID-19.
Its long term aim is to develop tools to help health workers cope in response to future disasters.
The project will include healthcare workers from across the Loddon Mallee region, involving public and community health services, as well as private deliverers.
Chief executive Peter Faulkner said Bendigo Health was proud to be involved in a significant study, the only rural and regional specific study worldwide.
Mr Faulkner said healthcare workers felt the effect of the COVID-19 crisis in several ways.
It could be stress from waiting for a test result even with mild symptoms, making up for staff absences caused by self-isolation, or caring for COVID-19 positive patients, and the fear of taking the disease home to loved ones.
Bendigo Health intensive care nurse Ebony Straub said she had felt the same fear and uncertainty around the COVID-19 crisis as most people, with the added worry of taking the virus home to her family.
Ms Straub has treated both critically unwell COVID-19 patients at the hospital, as well as those in recovery.
She said she had seen stress, uncertainty and fatigue affect all her colleagues in different ways.
Mr Faulkner said COVID-19 pressure the whole community in small towns, where health services were often the largest employer.
He said the study intended to identify the key factors that were different between rural and regional, and metropolitan areas.
"For those of us who live and have lived in rural and regional cities, we understand the differences in connection between people and services," he said.
"We also understand that in rural populations there is a natural resilience. Rural populations contend with all sorts of natural circumstance, droughts, floods and the like.
"But we also know that in rural communities, there is a high psychological risk."
About 4000 healthcare workers will take part in the study, sharing details about their lifestyle, health and wellbeing with researchers.
These participants will be recruited through healthcare services.
The investigations will measure things such as wellness, psychological health, resilience and physical wellbeing.
These findings will inform the creation of tools and interventions, to help healthcare workers with resilience into the future.
Have you signed up to the Bendigo Advertiser's daily newsletter and breaking news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in central Victoria.