Burnout and Commitment to Primary Care: Lessons From the Early Impacts of COVID-19 on the Workplace Stress of Primary Care Practice Teams

Erin L. Kelly, Amy Cunningham, Randa Sifri, Oriana Pando, Kelsey Smith, Christine Arenson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations

Abstract

PURPOSE: The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically affected all areas of health care. Primary care practices are on the front lines for patients seeking health care during this period. Understanding clinical and administrative staff members' strategies for managing the broad-ranging changes to primary care service delivery is important for the support of workforce well-being, burnout, and commitment to primary care. METHODS: Thirty-three staff members from 8 practices within a single health care system completed short, semistructured interviews from May 11, 2020 to July 20, 2020. Interviews were coded using a combination of conventional and directed content analysis. RESULTS: Themes emerged from the data that mapped onto the Job Demands-Control-Social Support model. Participants reported that every aspect of primary care service delivery needed to be adapted for COVID-19, which increased their job demands significantly. Several also described pride in their development of new skills, and in most interviews, they expressed that the experience brought staff together. Staff engaged in active cognitive reframing of events during the interviews as they coped with increased workplace stress. However, as the pandemic changed from an acute stress event to a chronic stressor, staff were more likely to indicate signs of burnout. CONCLUSIONS: Primary care teams absorbed tremendous burdens during COVID-19 but also found that some stress was offset by increased support from management and colleagues, belief in their own necessity, and new development opportunities. Considering high prepandemic strain levels, the ability of primary care teams to persist under these conditions might erode as the crisis becomes an enduring challenge.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)57-62
Number of pages6
JournalAnnals of family medicine
Volume20
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding support: This work was funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of the HRSA Primary Care Training and Enhancement: Integrating Behavioral Health and Primary Care Program (grant number T0BHP33104). The contents are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement by, HRSA, HHS, or the US Government.

Funding Information:
This work was funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of the HRSA Primary Care Training and Enhancement: Integrating Behavioral Health and Primary Care Program (grant number T0BHP33104). The contents are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement by, HRSA, HHS, or the US Government.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, Annals of Family Medicine, Inc. All rights reserved.

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • burnout, psychological
  • job demands-control-social support model
  • occupational stress

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article

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