UC Davis EHSC Collaborates with SEIU-UHW on COVID-19 Workers Survey

Image of healthcare worker with a face shield and mask, looking exhausted

UC Davis EHSC Collaborates with SEIU-UHW on COVID-19 Workers Survey

COVID-19 Healthcare Workers Research Report Published

Quick Summary

  • The EHSC and SEIU-UHW collaborated to create a version of the COVID-19 survey focused on healthcare workers. 

The COVID-19 pandemic flipped our world upside down. Among other things, it had a dramatic effect on work & workers. Yet, particularly during the early days of the pandemic, this effect was unclear. 

EHSC researchers developed a survey to understand how workers and their families have been affected by COVID-19 – both on the job and at home. We also collaborated with several organizations to develop customized versions of the survey. 

SEIU-UHW – or Service Employees International Union-United Health Care Workers West – represents over 100,000 people employed by healthcare organizations, including janitors, respiratory therapists, caregivers, environmental service technicians handling biohazards, and other workers in healthcare. The EHSC and SEIU-UHW collaborated to create a version of the survey focused on healthcare workers. 

Ra Criscitiello, SEIU-UHW Assistant Research Director, shared, “During COVID, there was a real lack of communication from employers about what they were actually doing and the general atmosphere about protection and transmission of the virus. We needed information to advocate effectively for the healthcare workers we represent.” 

So, beginning in June 2021, SEIU-UHW contacted their members, asking them to take the online survey and report on their working conditions. At that point, vaccinations became available; however, the Delta variant was causing cases and death numbers to rise.

Overall, healthcare workers had a much higher risk of getting sick with COVID-19. Survey respondents were six times more likely to have been affected by the virus when compared to the general population, even though their vaccination rate was as high as 83%. Of those who reported testing positive for COVID-19, 77% attributed illness to exposure at work. 

SEIU Workers Survey Data Report PPE Provided by Chart
This graph is pulled from the SEIU-UHW report.

PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) is a vital part of protecting oneself from COVID-19, particularly in healthcare. However, the survey showed that 1 in 5 workers was employed at an organization that had to implement practices to start decontaminating and reusing disposable masks during the pandemic. When asked about safety protocols, 64% of the respondents reported that their employer never conducted fit testing of respirations. 51% of the respondents were required by their employer at some point during the pandemic to reuse masks that were meant to be disposable.

As a reminder to our readers, these PPE issues/safety protocols (e.g. needing to reuse masks) were widespread early on in the pandemic, but have eventually been addressed. 

A SEIU-UHW worker who gave their testimony, and requested anonymity, reported that 

“There were times we were not provided N-95 masks and asked to double up on surgical masks. We were short plastic gowns and asked to use patient hospital gowns. We provided our own face shields and lab coats due to short supply…Our department is falling apart due to stress and exertion.”

Justine Pascual, SEIU-UHW Research Analyst, shared that it was essential to understand the impact of workplace exposures to COVID-19 on workers’ families.

“We were concerned with what challenges members were facing outside of the hospital – for example,  transportation, mental health, familial life, and finances, any effect that COVID-19  had on their overall wellbeing.” Almost ¾ of survey respondents were worried about family or others getting COVID-19; more than half reported feeling disconnected from others. 

Criscitiello shared, “The thing about the report that really stuck with me was the figures around the emotional impact on workers. This says a lot about what stays with workers when they take their next step or even if they choose to leave the field. The numbers were so high around the lack of sleep, stress, and increased trauma responses.”

You can access the report written for SEIU-UHW and learn more about COVID-19 and Worker's study here.

Angelina Angelo (Staff Image)


Angelina is an EHSC editorial assistant for the communications department and an undergraduate student at UC Davis studying Human Development. She is an aspiring writer with a focus on science communication.