Lakehead researcher leading team examining challenges of diverse care workers during the pandemic

Photo of Dr. Kathy Sanderson
Dr. Kathy Sanderson
April 4, 2022 – Thunder Bay, Ont. 

Lakehead University’s Dr. Kathy Sanderson is leading a Canadian team of researchers examining the diversity and vulnerability of care workers during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Sanderson’s research project is one component of a larger project exploring the work of diverse care workers in Finland, Canada, United Kingdom, and South Africa.

This research is part of a successful Trans-Atlantic Platform in the Social Sciences and Humanities application, under the theme of Recovery, Renewal and Resilience. Her project is entitled “En Route to Recovery: Diversity and Vulnerability in Care Work During and After the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Researchers will describe how diverse people (women, LGBTI2S people, and migrant status or minority ethnic people) who work in precarious formal and informal care address challenges by collaboratively examining their ideas to ease risks and to deliver and receive care.

The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada is awarding Dr. Sanderson, Assistant Professor in Lakehead’s Faculty of Business Administration, and her team with $200,000 to perform this important research over 30 months.

Dr. Sanderson and her team are thrilled to receive this funding, which will explore the workplace and personal stressors experienced by Ontario’s personal support workers (PSWs).

“Those in COVID-facing positions have continued to provide care to the most vulnerable in our society,” Dr. Sanderson said.

“PSWs in our province experience low pay and precarious employment, coupled with extremely demanding physical and emotional work. This research project will explore policy and support opportunities for reducing the risks to care workers worldwide.”

 The team will interview 20 PSWs in Ontario to explore their realities throughout the pandemic, focusing on those who are providing services within clients' homes.

“Data collection for the project will occur over the next two years, during which we will continue to engage with the PSWs to document their experiences,” Dr. Sanderson said.

Across the four countries, PSWs will participate in virtual activities to share their views and make recommendations to improve the working conditions for care workers.

“Our research is based on the United Nations’ research recovery roadmap, focusing on reducing inequalities and vulnerabilities, and building a resilient, inclusive, and sustainable society.  The COVID-19 pandemic has placed unprecedented strains on formal and informal care work, worldwide,” Dr. Sanderson said.

“Paradoxically, the pandemic created new jobs and possibilities in care work, but the jobs remain physically and mentally strenuous, low paid, and often with fixed-term, precarious contracts and high turnover rates,” she added.

This project will focus on employees performing vital COVID-19 related jobs, providing individual care to vulnerable clients in both organizational and home settings.

“Congratulations to Dr. Sanderson for being awarded this grant and thanks to SSHRC for funding this important work,” said Dr. Andrew P. Dean, Lakehead’s Vice-President, Research and Innovation.

“Having a voice from COVID-care providers in Northwestern Ontario will provide an important and unique perspective on this global research project.”

Dr. Irfan Butt from Ryerson University’s School of Business Management is also a partner on the project.


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Lakehead University is a fully comprehensive university with approximately 9,700 full-time equivalent students and over 2,000 faculty and staff at two campuses in Orillia and Thunder Bay, Ontario. Lakehead has nine faculties, including Business Administration, Education, Engineering, Graduate Studies, Health & Behavioural Sciences, Law, Natural Resources Management, Science & Environmental Studies, and Social Sciences & Humanities. Lakehead University’s achievements have been recognized nationally and internationally, including being ranked, once again, among Canada’s Top 10 primarily undergraduate universities in Maclean’s 2021 University Rankings; as well as included in the top half of Times Higher Education's 2022 World Universities Rankings for the third consecutive year, and in the top 100 of 1,115 universities from around the world in THE's 2021 Impact Rankings (which assesses institutions against the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals). Visit