CENTRAL Victorian healthcare workers will soon take their turn under the microscope, as scientists seek to prepare responses to future disasters.
Bendigo Health will ask thousands of health workers to take part in a Loddon Mallee wide study, designed to crack the keys behind resilience and wellbeing.
It comes after health workers spent months battling the COVID-19 pandemic.
Investigators say workers have come under enormous pressure.
But for some its been a huge learning experience.
Bendigo Health care coordinator Rhonda Bell felt she'd grown significantly over the last six months through doing much-needed work, that stretched her skills.
Distance meant her role supporting COVID-19 patients by phone was at times frustrating, but helping was also very rewarding, she said.
Ms Bell said she could feel the difference her work was making in people's lives.
She spent her days at work calling patients who were isolating at home to monitor their health.
At one point it even meant visiting an elderly COVID-19 patient's house, to assess his condition.
Ms Bell works for Bendigo Health's hospital admission risk program, calling patients with chronic conditions to monitor their health and teach them how to manage their health.
She is one of the 4000 health workers across the Loddon Mallee academics hope to involve in a three year study into the effects of COVID-19 on their lives.
Investigators hope the findings will mean better support for health workers during future crises.
Lead investigator Mark McEvoy said healthcare workers had been under enormous pressure, but scientists knew little about its ramifications on their lives in a regional and rural setting.
Associate Professor McEvoy said he hoped to find factors which were protective for healthcare workers' mental health, or helped with resilience.
The study will involve regular questionnaires across three years to assess participants' health and wellbeing.
Associate Professor McEvoy urged any health staff - whether clinical or not - to volunteer for the study.
Ms Bell said she had volunteered because it was good for regional areas to have a voice about their needs.
When COVID-19 numbers began to rise in Bendigo, Ms Bell was seconded to a new team remotely monitoring patients.
High risk patients were getting phone calls twice a day, to run through their symptoms and condition.
It was both medical and emotional support for the patients, with some alone in their house, completely isolated.
Ms Bell said it was both difficult and rewarding supporting patients at a distance through a completely unfamiliar disease.
"They would express frustrations and fears about 'What does this mean? How is this going to affect me in the long run? When will I know what's going on?'," she said.
"We had to be honest and say, 'We're learning as we go here, nobody knows, this is a new thing'.
"We don't have all the answers, all we can do is be by your side and virtually hold your hand, and you know you can ring us anytime."
Ms Bell said her year working with COVID-19 patients had been an opportunity for growth and reflection.
"I ... got to this age, [I thought], I won't learn any more, I'm getting close to retirement. By hell I've learnt a lot this year," she said.
"I've learned a bit about myself and learnt a bit about others, it's been a very rewarding experience."
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