Protective and Risk Factors of Italian Healthcare Professionals during the COVID-19 Pandemic Outbreak: A Qualitative Study

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Jan 8;18(2):453. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18020453.


The COVID-19 pandemic put the Italian health system under great stress. The sudden reorganization of work practices and the emotional impact of the large number of the victims had many consequences on the well-being of the healthcare professionals (HCPs) involved in managing the crisis. In the available literature, most studies have focused on the risk aspects while only few studies also take into account protective factors. For this reason, it was decided to conduct, within psycho-sociological perspective, a qualitative study with the aim to explore in depth the protective and risk factors as experienced by HCPs who worked in the Italian healthcare system during the COVID-19 outbreak. A total of 19 semi-structured interviews were conducted with HCPs-9 nurses and 10 physicians (7M and 12F) with an average age of 43 (SD = 13.4)-selected using snowball sampling. Considering three different levels of analysis the results highlight the protective and risk factors: personal history level (intrinsic/ethical motivation and flexible role versus extrinsic motivation and static role), interpersonal level (perception of supportive relationships with colleagues, patients, and family versus bad relationships), and organizational level (good leadership and sustainable work purpose versus absence of support from management and undefined or confused tasks).

Keywords: COVID-19 pandemic; healthcare professionals; protective factors; psychological malaise; risk factors.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • COVID-19 / psychology*
  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Health Personnel / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Leadership
  • Motivation
  • Pandemics*
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Support