Objective: The aim of this study was to explore how the COVID-19 pandemic changed the working conditions of physicians in Swedish primary healthcare.
Design: This is a descriptive, qualitative study with individual semistructured interviews. Data were analysed using inductive content analysis.
Setting: Swedish primary healthcare units in both rural and urban areas.
Participants: A total of 11 primary care physicians fulfilled participation.
Results: Two main categories emerged: 'work organisation and routines' and 'psychosocial work environment', containing three and five subcategories, respectively. The pandemic enforced changes in work organisation and routines. Increased flexibility, including more patient-oriented delivery of care, and novel means of interorganisational and intraorganisational interactions were perceived as positive by physicians. The pandemic also caused several changes in physicians' psychosocial work environment. Increased workload, information overload, as well as ethical considerations and feelings of uncertainty made the work environment stressful for physicians.
Conclusions: The COVID-19 pandemic affected the working conditions of physicians in Swedish primary healthcare in numerous ways. The pandemic enforced changes in work organisation and routines for physicians in primary healthcare. Further research is needed to investigate how the pandemic will affect primary healthcare in the longer term. Learning from the pandemic is important because this will not be the last crisis that primary care and its healthcare professionals will face.
Keywords: COVID-19; health services administration & management; primary care.
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