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The role of motivational interviewing training in supporting the practice of COVID-19 contact tracers

Cathy Atkinson (Manchester Institute of Education, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK)
Joanna Barrow (University of Manchester, Manchester, UK)
Paul Earnshaw (University of Manchester, Manchester, UK)

International Journal of Health Governance

ISSN: 2059-4631

Article publication date: 25 April 2023

Issue publication date: 23 May 2023




To explore how motivational interviewing (MI) training might benefit the practice of COVID-19 contact tracers.


Following co-production of a MI training package, with a United Kingdom (UK) track and trace organisation, training was delivered virtually to 101 volunteer participants involved in contact tracing. Data were captured via an online survey, incorporating questions from recognised measures of occupational self-efficacy and workplace wellbeing, prior to the training. Open data fields were used to gather feedback about participants' reasons for attending, and views about the training afterwards.


Although the contact tracers reported high occupational self-efficacy and workplace wellbeing, both quantitative and qualitative data suggested participants saw practitioner value and utility in MI.

Research limitations/implications

The sample was self-selecting and typically involved contact tracers from UK local authorities. The study did not measure impact on compliance with self-isolation guidance and/or providing details of contacts, and larger-scale research would be needed to establish this. This was not a pre-post-test evaluation study, and measures of occupational self-efficacy and workplace wellbeing were gathered to give insight into the sample and to test the feasibility of using this survey for a future large-scale study. The research was conducted during the height of the pandemic. While UK COVID-19 contact tracing services have since been reduced, there are potential implications for infection control more generally.

Practical implications

MI is potentially a useful approach for enhancing contact tracing practice. However, implementation factors should be carefully considered, to ensure effective and sustainable practice.

Social implications

Improved practice in contact tracing could have potential benefits in infection control, through improving compliance with central guidance, although this requires more widespread investigation.


This is the first empirical study to investigate how MI training could benefit COVID-19 contact tracing practice.



This research was funded by an award (ref ES/W000482/1) from the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).


Atkinson, C., Barrow, J. and Earnshaw, P. (2023), "The role of motivational interviewing training in supporting the practice of COVID-19 contact tracers", International Journal of Health Governance, Vol. 28 No. 2, pp. 194-209.



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