Experiences of Home Health Care Workers in New York City During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 Pandemic

August 26, 2020 by Christen Aldrich

Filed under COVID-19 for Employers, COVID-19 for the Workforce, Engagement & Morale

Last modified August 27, 2020

In this qualitative analysis written by Madeline R. Sterling, MD, MPH, MS1; Emily Tseng, MS2; Anthony Poon, BS2; et al, the experiences of home health care workers caring for older adults and for patients with chronic illnesses during the COVID-19 pandemic are revealed. The findings included the study of 33 home health care workers employed by 24 unique home care agencies across New York City. Overall, participants in this study reported they were at heightened risk for contracting and transmitting COVID-19. They also reported feeling inadequately supported and “generally invisible,” despite providing integral care to vulnerable patients.

The following shows major themes and subthemes that summarize the home health care workers’ experiences, all outlined in the analysis:

Theme 1: On the Front Lines of COVID-19 Medical Management, but Invisible


  • Providing day-to-day care for patients with chronic conditions
  • Monitoring patients for COVID-19 symptoms
  • Taking precautions to prevent COVID-19 in the home
  • Feeling invisible

Theme 2: Heightened Risk for COVID-19 Transmission to Patients and Themselves


  • Risk of transmitting COVID-19 to patients
  • Risk of contracting COVID-19 themselves
  • Reliance on public transportation, which increases exposure risk
  • Numerous home care workers per patient, increases risk of spread

Theme 3: Varying Levels of Support From Agencies, Including Information and Personal Protective Equipment


  • Differing amounts of COVID-19 information
  • Limited personal protective equipment
  • Lacking COVID-19–specific training

Theme 4: Reliance on Alternative Sources for Support


  • Information sources included news media, social media, and others
  • Nonagency sources of personal protective equipment
  • Peer support

Theme 5: Forced to Make Tough Trade-offs Between Their Own Health and Finances


  • Working vs risk of exposure
  • Working vs risk of losing wages and benefits
  • Risk of transmission vs duty to provide care
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