June 10, 2020

Social Work researcher asks if we’ve learned lessons taught by SARS and H1N1

David Nicholas examines how Covid-19 impacts health-care delivery for paediatric patients and their families
David Nicholas
David Nicholas Dale McMillan

New research by Faculty of Social Work professor Dr. David Nicholas, PhD, RSW, is examining the experience of children and families in the health-care system as the impacts of this global pandemic continue to be felt.

“Changing practices, and shifts in care during a pandemic can be profoundly impactful,” says Nicholas, pictured above. “So if you have, for instance, a child who is being treated by somebody who is gowned and masked — so they can't really clearly see who's treating them — what's that about? Or if parents are quarantined and kids are separated from parents how can we provide a quality of life and balance the protection needed in terms of managing spread versus quality of care, and experience?”

Not 'if' but 'when”

When U.S. President Donald Trump claimed “Nobody knew there would be a pandemic or epidemic of this proportion. There’s never been anything like this in history. There’s never been,” he was, of course, wrong. In fact, public health experts have been warning that a pandemic, like the novel coronavirus was a question of “when”, not “if.” For example, one of Nicholas’s previous papers examined the experience of children and families during SARS and H1N1, and another looked at gaps that emerged during these crises, with recommendations for future pandemics.

“There were some important lessons learned from SARs and H1N1,” says Nicholas, “as well as public health strategies for adult and paediatric care. This is an opportunity to examine how care patterns — the practices and public health policy related to children — has been implemented during this public health emergency.

"Have we learned from some of the lessons and policy recommendations that emerged from other outbreaks along the way? So it's a bit of a review of that relative to the current experience we're, in the midst of now and will be for some time.”

Why social work?

This research could, of course, be done through many different lenses. However, Nicholas believes Social Work goes beyond the medical experience of the individual to focus on the big picture. “I think social work brings out the perspective of what it means for the individual in the context of the family, and more broadly in the community and society,” he says.

“Thinking about how do we potentially intervene at all those levels? In terms of moving well in this process, but also making a difference for the individual, for the family, for the community and moving forward well as a society amidst what is a real strain on public health.”

While the federally funded study will last two years, Nicholas hopes to share findings that might have an impact during the current crisis.