Interviewing the interviewers: capturing oral histories and other qualitative evidence to describe the impact of covid-19 contact tracing
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Maryland Department of Health 101 E Mount Royal Avenue, Apt 703. Baltimore -Maryland United States Maryland Department of Health Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health 101 E Mount Royal Avenue, Apt 703. Baltimore-Maryland. United States
Johns Hopkins Center for health and Equity
Maryland Department of Health "201 W. Preston Street. Baltimore- Maryland" United States
Maryland Department of Health 201 W. Preston Street. Baltimore-Maryland United States
Maryland Department of health
Publication date: 2023-04-26
Popul. Med. 2023;5(Supplement):A464
Background and Objective:
Contact tracing was a crucial component of the public health response to prevent the spread of COVID-19, albeit a time-consuming activity requiring many human and technical resources. Maryland contact tracers provided vital assistance to COVID-19 patients and close contacts. The purpose of this evaluation was to capture qualitative aspects of COVID-19 contact tracing to document impact (e.g., stories describing experiences contact tracers had while interacting with cases and close contacts).

We conducted semi-structured qualitative interviews with 14 contact tracers from various counties in Maryland via videoconference. We collected information about why they became contact tracers, explored the impacts they had on cases and close contacts, and captured the memorable experiences, challenges, and rewarding parts of contact tracing. Themes and quotes were manually coded from interview transcripts and analyzed manually using the classic method of qualitative data analysis.

Data analyses revealed themes including altruism, being a source of support, being overwhelmed, satisfaction in closing cases, and interest in continuing a career in public health. Most participants indicated they became contact tracers to help fight the pandemic. Contact tracers recalled experiences of calling 911 for clients over the phone and sometimes being the last and only person to speak to clients before they died. Many were overwhelmed with the large number of cases they had to call daily but found it rewarding to notify cases and close contacts to end isolation or quarantine. And those new to the field indicated they were now interested and wanted to stay in public health.

We documented the qualitative impact of contact tracing not captured in the contact tracing and disease surveillance metrics. The testimonials can be used to improve contact tracing processes and policies for future pandemics and to inspire the next generation to join the public health workforce.

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