Views from the trenches: California family physicians’ challenges and resilience factors while providing patient care during the initial wave of COVID-19
This study examined challenges and factors promoting resilience among 20 California family physicians (FPs) during the first six months of the COVID-19 pandemic. A subset of academic, community, and resident FPs who responded to an online survey also participated in a semi-structured interview that explored concerns, moral distress, burnout, resource needs, support systems, coping strategies, and motivation to continue caring for patients. Thematic analysis was used to identify common themes in participant interviews. Interviewees demonstrated adaptability, resilience, and grit (i.e., commitment to completing a valued goal in the face of setbacks and adversity) despite challenges disrupting patient care, fears for family and self, and frustration due to the politicization of the pandemic. Factors promoting well-being and perseverance included professional and personal support, strong coping skills, and focusing on the meaning derived from practicing medicine. A service orientation that permeates family medicine philosophy and values motivated practitioners to continue to provide patient care while dealing with overwhelming personal and structural challenges. FPs drew strength from their internal coping skills, core family medicine values, and external support, notwithstanding demoralizing effects of mixed messages and politicization of the pandemic. FPs demonstrated resilience and grit in the face of challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Ensuring adequate resources to promote a physically and psychologically healthy workforce while increasing access to care for all patients is crucial to prepare for the next healthcare crisis.