Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland
Exploring the psychological impact of contact tracing work on staff during the COVID-19 pandemic.pdf (1.26 MB)

Exploring the psychological impact of contact tracing work on staff during the COVID-19 pandemic

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-07-17, 16:13 authored by Hugh Fulham-McQuillan, Roisin O'DonovanRoisin O'Donovan, Claire M Buckley, Philip Crowley, Brynne Gilmore, Jennifer Martin, Eilish McAuliffe, Gregory Martin, Gemma Moore, Mary Morrissey, Emma Nicholson, Eidin Ni SheEidin Ni She, Mary Clare O'Hara, Ricardo Segurado, Mary Rose SweeneyMary Rose Sweeney, Patrick Wall, Aoife De Brún

Background: Contact tracing is a key control measure in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. While quantitative research has been conducted on the psychological impact of the pandemic on other frontline healthcare workers, none has explored the impact on contact tracing staff.

Methods: A longitudinal study was conducted using two repeated measures with contact tracing staff employed in Ireland during the COVID-19 pandemic using two-tailed independent samples t tests and exploratory linear mixed models.

Results: The study sample included 137 contact tracers in March 2021 (T1) and 218 in September 2021 (T3). There was an increase from T1 to T3 in burnout related exhaustion (p < 0·001), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptom scores (p < 0·001), mental distress (p < 0·01), perceived stress (p < 0·001) and tension and pressure (p < 0·001). In those aged 18-30, there was an increase in exhaustion related burnout (p < 0·01), PTSD symptoms (p < 0·05), and tension and pressure scores (p < 0·05). Additionally, participants with a background in healthcare showed an increase in PTSD symptom scores by T3 (p < 0·001), reaching mean scores equivalent to those of participants who did not have a background in healthcare.

Conclusions: Contact tracing staff working during the COVID-19 pandemic experienced an increase in adverse psychological outcomes. These findings highlight a need for further research on psychological supports required by contact tracing staff with differing demographic profiles.


Health Research Board and the Irish Research Council under the COVID-19 Pandemic Rapid Response Funding Call [COV19-2020-016]



The original article is available at

Published Citation

Fulham-McQuillan H. et al. Exploring the psychological impact of contact tracing work on staff during the COVID-19 pandemic. BMC Health Serv Res. 2023;23(1):602.

Publication Date

8 June 2023

PubMed ID



  • Centre for Positive Health Sciences
  • Faculty of Nursing and Midwifery
  • Graduate School of Healthcare Management


BioMed Central


  • Published Version (Version of Record)