COVID-19 Has Changed How Primary Care Teams Work

Researchers sought to understand the strategies that clinical and administrative staff at primary care practices use to manage challenges faced by the primary care workforce under strain by an ongoing state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Understanding the impact of the pandemic on healthcare providers could potentially allow healthcare organizations to support workforce well-being, prevent burnout and sustain the quality of patient care.

Researchers conducted short, semi-structured, qualitative interviews among 33 staff members from eight practices within a single healthcare system. Participants said that they had to adapt every aspect of primary care service delivery for COVID-19 — such as patient scheduling, switching to telehealth visits and increased sanitation responsibilities — which significantly increased their job demands. New skill development opportunities and sense of purpose during this period increased a sense of pride in some staff members, and most teams reported greater support and patience within their practices. Participants also learned to reframe their responsibilities as a necessity during the pandemic. Management support also helped. However, as the pandemic has continued, staff reported that they experienced more feelings of burnout.

Participants’ perceptions of the pandemic’s effect on their jobs, demands of those jobs, sense of control over their responsibilities and support they received are factors other healthcare system officials can examine to improve staff engagement and wellness.

Reference: Kelly E, et al. Burnout and Commitment to Primary Care: Lessons From the Early Impacts of COVID-19 on the Workplace Stress of Primary Care Practice Teams. Ann Fam Medicine. 2022.