Skip to main content

Opening all the boxes: Unpacking the lived experience of frontline providers during a COVID-19 outbreak through art-based research

Pilar Camargo Plazas, PhD, RN, Associate Professor, School of Nursing, Queen’s University
Jane Philpott, MD, CCFP, MPH, PC, Dean, Faculty of Health Sciences, Queen’s University
Lenora Duhn, PhD, RN, Assistant Professor, School of Nursing, Queen’s University
Shelley Brillinger, RN, BScN, MPH, Executive Director, Participation House Markham
Emma Vanderlee, MScN, RN, Queen’s University PhD (Nursing) Student

What?  In Spring 2020, Participation House, Markham (PHM), the Partner Organization – a residential group home providing 24/7 support services for adults ranging in age from 20-86 years with developmental and physical disabilities (aligned with the Ministry of Children, Community, and Social Services) – was affected by a COVID-19 outbreak. On April 10, a state of emergency was declared when 10 residents and two staff members contracted COVID-19. It was the beginning in which that world would be irrevocably changed for all involved. 


Why?  With the ending of the outbreak on June 8, after suffering the inconceivable death of six residents to COVID-19, and with 40 of 42 residents and 57 staff testing positive for COVID-19,  the time has come for reflection and recounting – to listen, to learn, and to give voice to frontline providers. PHM and the team at Queen’s University are leveraging their newfound partnership and combined expertise to launch the first Canadian study exploring the lived experiences of frontline providers caring for residents with disabilities during a COVID-19 outbreak. Using an art-based case study we will bring this community together, to engage with issues that the pandemic may have revealed or heightened.


How?  This study will follow an intrinsic single-case study, art-based research and interpretive methodologies. The research activities will include creative art-making from participants, followed by semi-structured one-to-one interviews, and focus groups, and ending in a Knowledge Exchange day to share the art and study findings.


Impact of findings:  Findings will highlight the unique role of frontline providers who care for vulnerable groups in community settings to shed light on the effects of the pandemic, as well as create strategies for building resilience and disaster preparedness at local and provincial levels.



Funded By
SSHRC Partnership Engage Grant, COVID-19 Special Initiative 2020-2021