BACKGROUND: While research has been conducted on the availability, accessibility, and affordability of personal protective equipment for healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, little information is available on the ways in which health workers, especially those in humanitarian settings see themselves, and engage in self-preparedness for social, physical, and mental health and practical care in the pandemic. We sought to address this gap.

METHODS: We followed a constructivist grounded theory approach to guide in-depth interviews with 30 frontline doctors, nurses, and community healthcare workers recruited from the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh using the purposive and snowball sampling methods. Analyses were carried out through the identification of codes in three phases: an initial line-by-line open coding, then focused axial coding, and finally selective coding.

FINDINGS: An emergent-grounded theory of "Navigating Self-Preparedness through Pandemics" was developed as we built a five-phased theoretical framework examining health worker responses with the following pillars: (a) pandemic shock; (b) pandemic awareness; (c) pandemic learning; (d) pandemic resilience, and (e) pandemic resurgence.

INTERPRETATION: The theory emerged as a realistic, socially, and culturally sensitive COVID-19 strategy to support healthcare workers. Self-preparedness was characterized by two interwoven processes: (1) the experiences of the daily life span of healthcare workers attempting to improve their own protection using all their potential while providing care for patients in a vulnerable setting and time and (2) the inseparable role of physical, psychological, social, and spiritual factors in each stage of learning during the pandemic to achieve better outcomes.


© 2023 Khan, Azad, Bhuyian, Karim and Grant. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Cite as

Khan, F., Azad, T., Bhuyian, S., Karim, H. & Grant, L. 2023, 'Exploring the self-preparedness of frontline healthcare workers in a low- and middle-income country from a humanitarian context during the COVID-19 pandemic: A constructivist grounded theory study', Frontiers in Public Health, 11, article no: 1043050. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpubh.2023.1043050

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Last updated: 05 May 2023
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