Experiences of Australian podiatrists working through the 2020 coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic: an online survey
© 2021, The Author(s). Background: On the 19th of January, 2020, the Chief Medical Officer of Australia issued a statement about a novel coronavirus, or SARS-CoV-2. Since this date, there have been variable jurisdictional responses, including lockdowns, and restrictions on podiatry practice. This study aimed to describe impacts of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic on the podiatry profession in Australia. Methods: This was a cross sectional study of Australian podiatrists using demographic data collected between 2017 and 2020, and pandemic-related question responses collected between 30th March and 31st August, 2020. Data were collected online and participants described their work settings, patient funding types, business decisions and impacts, and information sources used to guide practice decisions during this time-period. Inductive thematic analysis was used to analyse open-ended questions about their practice impact of SARS-CoV-2. Results: There were 732 survey responses, with 465 Australian podiatrists or podiatric surgeons providing responses describing pandemic impact. From these responses, 223 (49% of 453) podiatrists reported no supply issues, or having adequate supplies for the foreseeable future with personal protective equipment (PPE) or consumables to support effective infection prevention and control. The most frequent responses about employment, or hours of work, impact were reported in the various categories of “business as usual” (n = 312, 67%). Participants described most frequently using the local state and territory Department of Health websites (n = 347, 75%), and the Australian Podiatry Association (n = 334, 72%) to make decisions about their business. Overarching themes which resounded through open-ended comments was that working through the pandemic was likened to a marathon, and not a sprint. Themes were: (i) commitment to do this, (ii) it’s all in the plan, but not everything goes to plan, (iii) my support team must be part of getting through it, (iv) road blocks happen, and (v) nothing is easy, what’s next? Conclusion: Podiatrists in Australia reported variable pandemic impact on their business decisions, PPE stores, and their valued sources of information. Podiatrists also described their “marathon” journey through the pandemic to date, with quotes describing their challenges and highlights. Describing these experiences should provide key learnings for future workforce challenges, should further restrictions come into place.