AHRQ to Fund Research on Healthcare Worker Safety, Well-Being

Jan. 10, 2024
Grants to fund strategies to improve delivery system safety by addressing factors that weaken healthcare worker safety and well-being

The federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) is planning to fund research on system-level approaches to improving patient safety by improving healthcare worker safety and well-being. 

AHRQ notes that healthcare workers are challenged by many conditions, including limited resources; conflicting clinical goals; changing priorities; poorly designed or implemented technologies, tools and processes; time pressures; shift work and changing schedules; and lack of personal physical and psychological safety. 

Systems-based approaches to improve healthcare worker safety and well-being are essential and are expected to provide valuable benefits for both healthcare workers and patients, AHRQ said in its Notice of Funding Opportunity. “Research is urgently needed to better understand the effectiveness of systems-based interventions designed to improve healthcare worker safety and well-being, and to explore their impacts on healthcare workers and on patients.” 

Numerous studies have documented that the lack of healthcare worker safety and well-being has measurable adverse effects not only on healthcare workers, but also on patient care, patient experiences, and patient outcomes. 

Factors that threaten healthcare worker safety and well-being extend beyond physical hazards and include moral distress, pandemic-related exhaustion, time pressure, lack of psychological safety, shortages of staff, equipment and supplies, poorly designed or poorly implemented technology, workflow, tools and processes, increasing patient acuity and complexity, structural racism and health inequities, conflicting clinical goals, excessive clerical and administrative burdens, and financial pressures. 

Furthermore, challenges with work life balance, the healthcare worker's own illness or disability, caregiving responsibilities for children, older adults, and other family members, and lack of sensitivity to each of these factors can also contribute to burnout. Although these challenges were exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic, the issues are not new. These  factors impact individual healthcare workers, care teams, and entire healthcare delivery organizations.

AHRQ is looking for grant applications that are designed to improve the interrelated systems and processes embedded in healthcare delivery in various healthcare settings to support healthcare worker safety and well-being. 

Applications responding to this grant funding opportunity must test strategies to improve healthcare delivery system safety by addressing the factors that weaken healthcare worker safety and well-being and/or by making systemic changes to improve healthcare worker safety and well-being. Applications must include an operational definition of healthcare worker safety or well-being.

Grant applications may address conditions and circumstances such as patient care surges, acute or chronic crises, and resource limitations as well as ordinary and/or successful work. Grant applications may address, but are not limited to, cognitive, physical, or social/ behavioral processes.

Research, measurement, and practice improvement to enhance healthcare worker safety and well-being may address adverse events and harms or may encompass approaches that support learning from how and why things go right and how to anticipate, recognize, monitor, and respond to hazards and opportunities. 

AHRQ said the total costs for a project awarded will not exceed $500,000 in any given year and $2 million for the entire project period.


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