"We All Really Need to just Take a Breath": Composite Narratives of Hospital Doctors' Well-Being during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Feb 19;18(4):2051. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18042051.


The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic poses a challenge to the physical and mental well-being of doctors worldwide. Countries around the world introduced severe social restrictions, and significant changes to health service provision in the first wave of the pandemic to suppress the spread of the virus and prioritize healthcare for those who contracted it. This study interviewed 48 hospital doctors who worked in Ireland during the first wave of the pandemic and investigated their conceptualizations of their own well-being during that time (March-May 2020). Doctors were interviewed via Zoom™ or telephone. Interview transcripts were analyzed using structured thematic analysis. Five composite narratives are presented which have been crafted to illustrate themes and experiences emerging from the data. This study found that despite the risks of contracting COVID-19, many doctors saw some improvements to their physical well-being in the first wave of the pandemic. However, most also experienced a decline in their mental well-being due to anxiety, emotional exhaustion, guilt, isolation and poor support. These findings shed light on doctor well-being during COVID-19, and the ways in which they have been affected by the pandemic, both professionally and personally. The paper concludes by highlighting how doctors' work life and well-being can be better supported during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Keywords: COVID-19; burnout; composite narratives; health professions; hospital doctors; well-being.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19*
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Hospitals
  • Humans
  • Ireland / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Mental Health
  • Pandemics*
  • Physicians / psychology*