The KFF/Washington Post is a partnership combining survey research and reporting to better inform the public. The KFF/Washington Post Frontline Health Care Workers Survey is the 35th in the series and focuses on the toll of the coronavirus pandemic on frontline health care workers, These individuals, who work across many different health care fields including doctors and nurses, nursing home managers, front desk clerks, and those who assist patients with daily tasks like bathing, eating, cleaning, exercising, or housekeeping, have been on the front lines of an industry providing care for the sickest adults during the past year.

Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish with a nationally representative sample of 1,327 frontline health care workers, defined as those who work in a health care delivery setting in direct contact with patients or bodily fluids. The survey also included a comparison survey allowing researchers to compare the group of frontline health care workers to the general population, that included 971 U.S. adults not working as frontline health care workers using the SSRS Online Panel. The survey was conducted online and via telephone from February 11- March 7, 2021. Sampling, data collection, weighting, and tabulation were managed by SSRS of Glenn Mills, Pennsylvania. Teams from KFF and The Washington Post worked together to develop the questionnaire and analyze the data, and both organizations contributed financing for the survey.

Sampling and Recruitment

Frontline health care workers are defined for the purpose of this project as individuals who work in a health care delivery setting and have direct contact with patients or their bodily fluids. This definition is based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) category of essential health care workers.

The frontline health care worker sample includes a hybrid sample from two online probability-based panels and telephone samples recruited from random digit dialing (RDD). The online panels were the SSRS Opinion Panel, a representative probability-based panel of U.S. adults age 18 and older, recruited using the SSRS Omnibus poll (a weekly dual-frame RDD telephone survey) and through address-based sampling (ABS) (n=398), and the IPSOS KnowledgePanel, a probability-based online panel of U.S.  adults age 18 and older recruited through ABS (n=628), targeting panelists who previously indicated they were employed. The telephone sample of frontline health care workers include computer-assisted telephone interviews conducted with respondents reached by cell phone and landline. To efficiently maximize the sample of health care workers, the sample included 124 respondents who previously completed an interview on KFF’s monthly tracking poll (n=85) or the SSRS Omnibus Poll (n=39) and said they worked in a health care delivery setting. An additional 94 respondents who previously completed an interview on the SSRS Omnibus and indicated that they were employed were also reached.

Weighting and Data Processing

The combined landline, cell phone, and web sample was weighted to match the sample demographics to estimates for the national population, and specifically to the adult health care worker population. A multi-stage weighting process was used to adjust for the fact that not all survey respondents were selected with the same probabilities and to account for systematic non-response. In the first weighting stage, adjustments were made regarding the probabilities of selection to the two web panels, and for probability of selection and non-response to the telephone callback samples. In the second stage, weighting was conducted separately for those who qualified as health care workers and all other adults. Demographic benchmarks for health care workers were derived from analysis of a sample of all respondents interviewed on the SSRS Omnibus survey between December 21, 2020 and February 28, 2021 (N=10,075), and the December 2020 KFF Health Care Tracking Poll and January 2021 KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor Survey (combined N=3,239). Each of these surveys were probability samples of the U.S. adult population that were weighted to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey and included questions to identify front-line health care workers. While there are no known administrative data available for frontline health care workers, the survey-derived benchmarks for front-line health care workers estimates were validated by comparison to the 2019 ACS demographic estimates within matching occupation and industry code. In the final weighting stage, each group (health care workers and all others) was weighted to reflect its actual share in the U.S. adult population.

All sampling error margins and tests of statistical significance have been adjusted to account for the sample design and weighting. The margin of sampling error for the total frontline health care worker sample is plus or minus 3 percentage points. The margin of sampling error for the comparison sample (U.S. adults) is 4 percentage points. The margin of sampling error may be higher for subgroups. Note that sampling error is only one of many potential sources of error in this or any other public opinion poll. Kaiser Family Foundation public opinion and survey research and The Washington Post are charter members of the Transparency Initiative of the American Association for Public Opinion Research.

Each organization bears the sole responsibility for the work that appears under its name. The project team from KFF included: Mollyann Brodie, Ph.D., Ashley Kirzinger, Ph.D., Audrey Kearney and Liz Hamel. The project team from The Washington Post included: Scott Clement and Emily Guskin.

Toll of the Pandemic Appendix

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