Research Articles

Navigating Uncertainty: Evaluation of a COVID-19 Surge Workforce Support Program, Australia 2020-2021



Introduction: The COVID-19 pandemic response has required a rapid influx into the public health workforce, demanding a wide range of skills to address the crisis. As the second wave of COVID-19 escalated in the southern Australian state of Victoria during 2020, the Public Health Association of Australia and the Australasian Epidemiological Association partnered to implement a mentorship program to support the public health surge response workforce within the Department of Health and Human Services. We conducted an evaluation of this program to identify whether the model is valuable for future emergency response workforce support.

Methods: The mixed-methods program evaluation consisted of a short self-administered and anonymous online survey, focus groups, and semi-structured interviews for mentors and mentees. We used the Kirkpatrick model to evaluate the program, using the model’s four levels: reaction, learning, behaviour and results.

Results: Seventy-six program participants responded to the online survey; 16 participated in focus group discussions and nine in interviews. Eighty-nine percent (n=25/28) of surveyed mentees reported that this was their first public health emergency response, and 54% (n=15/28) reported that they had less than five years of public health experience. Three primary focus areas were identified from the data to inform program refinement: programmatic considerations, professional and wellbeing support, and broader benefits of the program.

Discussion: The program supported frontline pandemic response workers at a time of heightened need. Our evaluation found the support provided mitigated the inexperience of the surge workforce in Victoria, and this model was useful during a public health emergency response. The findings of this evaluation will contribute to the development and refinement of a support program specifically for future emergency response workforces.


Epidemiologypublic health practicehealth workforcepandemicprogram evaluationmentorship
  • Year: 2021
  • Volume: 3
  • DOI: 10.31646/gbio.124
  • Submitted on 13 Jul 2021
  • Published on 24 Nov 2021
  • Peer Reviewed