Emotions in the Time of COVID-19: Affections and Impacts among the Spanish Primary Care Workforce

Healthcare (Basel). 2021 Dec 13;9(12):1723. doi: 10.3390/healthcare9121723.


Background: The literature review shows that most studies on the psychological impact of COVID-19 on healthcare professionals have focused on hospital staff, with few specifically addressing the primary care workforce. This study aims to explore primary care workers' verbal accounts of the emotions they experienced.

Methods: This is a qualitative study carried out between July and December 2020 in Spain. Semi-structured interviews and focus groups were conducted with primary care workers. Data were analysed through thematic content analysis. Participants were selected using purposive sampling.

Results: A total of 53 primary care workers participated in the study, of whom 38 were individually interviewed, and 15 participated in three focus groups. Our analysis revealed themes in two categories: (1) from infection to affection; and (2) affected, but not patients-a discourse based on the acceptance of their experience as part of their work in primary care, creating an ideological construct or "shield" based on emotional self-management.

Conclusions: Self-reflection on the emotional impact of COVID-19 is scarce. Examples of emotional affections include an obsessive focus on hygiene, the inability to establish clear boundaries between the personal and the professional spheres, and experiencing-and having to self-manage-emotional strain.

Keywords: COVID-19; emotions; primary care; qualitative study.