Healthcare Professionals’ Experiences of Pandemics: a rapid review of qualitative research

Vincent, Ben; Callahan, Evelyn; Borgstrom, Erica and Holti, Richard (2022). Healthcare Professionals’ Experiences of Pandemics: a rapid review of qualitative research. The Open University, Milton Keynes.


In Spring 2020, a pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) began and healthcare services around the world had to quickly adapt. Much of the focus was on how to clinically treat the disease rather than the impact on and how to support practitioners providing the care. This rapid review seeks to understand how healthcare practitioners experienced working under the conditions of a pandemic and the implications this may have for ongoing COVID-19 responses. The review focused on studies qualitatively addressing lived experiences and personal meanings of any professional healthcare provider in the context a WHO-recognized pandemic. Studies had to be written in English, published between 1900 and early May 2020, and were found via Scopus and Google Scholar. All included sources were iteratively thematically analyzed focusing on qualitative accounts of experiences of clinical practice during a pandemic. Themes identified across sources were grouped together with exemplary findings provided for each theme. The review did not seek to provide a meta-analysis or weigh the studies. This analysis resulted in the emergence of five main themes: preparation, information dissemination, adapting policies and practice, management of staff, time, and resources, and personal protective equipment (PPE) use and risk to staff. The insights of healthcare practitioners on each of these themes from past pandemics as well as from the current crisis could have implications for updating COVID-19 responses moving forward as well as for preparing for future pandemics.

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