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Workforce Experiences of a Rapidly Established SARS-CoV-2 Asymptomatic Testing Service in a Higher Education Setting: A Qualitative Study

Blake, Holly; Somerset, Sarah; Mahmood, Ikra; Mahmood, Neelam; Corner, Jessica; Ball, Jonathan K.; Denning, Chris


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Professor of Behavioural Medicine

Ikra Mahmood

Neelam Mahmood

Jessica Corner

Professor of Molecular Virology

Professor of Stem Cell Biology


Paul B. Tchounwou


The aim of the study was to explore workforce experiences of the rapid implementation of a SARS-CoV-2 asymptomatic testing service (ATS) in a higher education setting during the COVID-19 pandemic. The setting was a multi-campus university in the UK, which hosted a testing service for employees and students over two years. Qualitative semi-structured videoconference interviews were conducted. We contacted 58 participants and 25 were interviewed (43% response rate). Data were analysed thematically. The analysis produced four overarching themes: (1) feelings relating to their involvement in the service, (2) perceptions of teamwork, (3) perceptions of ATS leadership, (4) valuing the opportunity for career development. Agile and inclusive leadership style created psychological safety and team cohesion, which facilitated participants in the implementation of a rapid mitigation service, at pace and scale. Specific features of the ATS (shared vision, collaboration, networking, skills acquisition) instilled self-confidence, value and belonging, meaningfully impacting on professional development and career opportunities. This is the first qualitative study to explore the experiences of university employees engaged in the rapid deployment of a service as part of a pandemic outbreak and mitigation strategy within a higher education setting. Despite pressures and challenges of the task, professional growth and advancement were universal. This has implications for workforce engagement and creating workplaces across the sector that are well-prepared to respond to future pandemics and other disruptive events.


Blake, H., Somerset, S., Mahmood, I., Mahmood, N., Corner, J., Ball, J. K., & Denning, C. (2022). Workforce Experiences of a Rapidly Established SARS-CoV-2 Asymptomatic Testing Service in a Higher Education Setting: A Qualitative Study. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19(19), Article 12464.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Sep 29, 2022
Online Publication Date Sep 30, 2022
Publication Date Oct 1, 2022
Deposit Date Sep 30, 2022
Publicly Available Date Sep 30, 2022
Journal International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Electronic ISSN 1660-4601
Publisher MDPI
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 19
Issue 19
Article Number 12464
Keywords Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis; Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
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