Open Studio 1: Improving support for healthcare workers

Open studio #1, Cycle #1

The first Open Studio of the first cycle, held on 30 September and 1 October 2021, was titled ‘Better is Possible: Improving Support for Healthcare Workers’. It brought together a number of participants from the RESISTIRÉ consortium itself as well as experts, stakeholders, and creative people from outside of the project.

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the plight of healthcare workers and the subpar conditions under which they work. This Open Studio sought to find solutions to the myriad difficulties faced by healthcare staff and paid special attention to the gendered dimensions of the problems faced by the healthcare sector.

One of the core issues that constituted the main focus of the Open Studio was the severe impact of the pandemic on healthcare workers’ physical and mental health: they were disproportionately more likely to get ill, they suffered a range of physical conditions due to the heavy workload, and they often experienced anxiety, stress and depression. Apart from this, the pandemic emphasised the bad working conditions for healthcare workers in a lot of countries, with frequent shortages of medical personnel, equipment and other resources. Low pay and infrequent holidays, as well as the low valuation in general of a significant share of healthcare jobs are bad for working conditions and morale. Decision-making processes are often skewed as well, with healthcare management dominated by men while most healthcare workers, especially those on the frontlines against COVID-19, are more likely to be women. Female healthcare workers also have to deal with patriarchal gender norms (‘women are seen as carers, while men are curers’) and face harassment from their patients, clients and even co-workers.

The main questions that this OS raised were: How do we support healthcare workers to decrease or even eliminate health impacts? How do we give them what they need? How can we make a job in the healthcare sector more attractive and, thus, ensure there is enough personnel? How do we ensure fair representation for women in decision-making bodies and processes? How do we confront patriarchal norms and underlying assumptions about female healthcare workers? To these and related questions, the Open Studio was meant to provide a multitude of responses and potential solutions.