Primary Care in a Pandemic: A Qualitative Study on the Impact of COVID-19 on Workplace Wellness
On March 16, 2020, the city of Philadelphia announced a state of emergency due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. The Primary Care Department of Thomas Jefferson Hospital had to alter operations to protect patients, providers and staff. These changes included an increase in telehealth, personal protective equipment (PPE), spacing in-person visits, and working from home. This study was designed to qualitatively assess how these changes have impacted providers and staff in Jefferson’s primary care settings.
We conducted 31 qualitative semi-structured interviews with employees of Jefferson Primary Care practices. Though, our population was heavily skewed toward clinical staff (N=9), physician (N=8) and office managers (N=7), due to availability and interest, we also interviewed some behavioral health consultants (N=4), and administrative staff (N=3). The interviews were approximately 20 minutes long, recorded over Zoom, transcribed and analyzed utilizing NVIVO. The primary investigators designed and implemented standardized codes and reached consensus on the themes present in each interview before coding concluded.
While analysis is still ongoing, we have ascertained preliminary results from the study. The four primary themes that emerged are as followed: gratefulness, safety/PPE/communication, effect on burnout, and feeling relating to telehealth. Interviewees often spoke about the “silver linings” that they have focused on and found throughout the pandemic. Individuals often spoke about their feeling of safety in the workplace, access to PPE and communication from the Jefferson system, or lack thereof. While burnout was a common theme, the impact was highly variable. Telehealth was widely viewed as a positive addition and new staple to workflow.
Our results provide preliminary insight to the immediate effects of COVID on primary care employees and providers. We ascertained many of the common reactions to working from home, utilizing telehealth, safety, as well as general wellbeing. This study was nested within a larger mixed methods project, including a follow-up quantitative study, to assess and improve burnout within Jefferson’s primary care department.
Pando, Oriana; Cunningham, Amy; Kelley, Erin; Sifri, Randa; and Smith, Kelsey, "Primary Care in a Pandemic: A Qualitative Study on the Impact of COVID-19 on Workplace Wellness" (2021). Phase 1. Paper 4.