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Combat Stress Head of Research awarded prestigious prize

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A team of researchers including Combat Stress’ Head of Research Prof Dominic Murphy has been awarded a prestigious prize for a paper they wrote on supporting the UK’s frontline staff against moral injury during the pandemic.

Occupational Medicine, the official journal of the Society of Occupational Medicine, awarded the Esso Prize 2020 to Prof Murphy, as well as Dr Victoria Williamson and Prof Neil Greenberg from King’s College London. The Esso Prize is awarded annually to the article considered by the journal’s editorial team to be well written with a strong message for those working in occupational health.

The team’s research paper, Covid-19 and experiences of moral injury in frontline key workers, gives an overview of the potential risks of frontline key workers, such as NHS staff, social workers, prison staff and delivery drivers, developing moral injuries as a result of their experiences during the pandemic.

Moral injury is defined as the profound psychological distress that results from actions, or the lack of them, which violate one’s moral or ethical code. Morally injurious events can include acts of perpetration, acts of omission or experiences of betrayal from leaders or trusted others.

The research paper explained that frontline key workers may be vulnerable to experiencing moral injuries during the pandemic because the lack of resources means they are unable to adequately care for those they are responsible for, resulting in great suffering or a loss of life. A lack of resources, clear guidance or training may leave some staff feeling that their own health is not being properly considered by their employers and that they are at an increased risk of disease exposure.

Prof Murphy said:

“We wrote this research paper because we recognised the enormous strain that working on the frontline during the pandemic could have on healthcare staff. We wanted to translate our work around understanding how best to support individuals exposed to potentially morally challenging situations into a clear set of guidelines that could be used to support frontline staff.”