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Facing the Unknown: An Inductive Analysis of the Lived Experience of Medical Residents during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Psychopathology 2024 March 12
INTRODUCTION: The COVID-19 pandemic had significant repercussions for the everyday life and public health of society. Healthcare professionals were particularly vulnerable. Here, we interviewed medical residents about their lived experiences during the pandemic to offer a phenomenological analysis. To this end, we discuss their pandemic experiences considering Jaspers' "limit situation" concept - that is, a radical shift from their everyday experiences, to one causing them to question the basis of their very existence.

METHODS: We interviewed 33 medical residents from psychiatry and other specialties from the Hospital das Clínicas da Faculdade de Medicina da Universidade de São Paulo (HCFMUSP) who either (a) worked directly with COVID-19 patients or (b) provided psychiatric care to other healthcare professionals. Semi-structured interviews were developed using the Inductive Process to Analyze the Structure of lived Experience (IPSE).

RESULTS: The descriptions of the lived experiences of medical residents during the pandemic were organized into four content themes: (a) existential defense, (b) limit situations during the COVID-19 pandemic, (c) changes in lived experience, and (d) new world meanings through lived experience.

CONCLUSION: During the COVID-19 pandemic, medical residents experienced what can be thought of as a "limit situation," as they encountered the healthcare delivery challenges coupled with the social isolation imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. These challenges included fear of infection and potential death, uncertainty about the future, and the emotional overload caused by the sharp increase in patient deaths. That said, after facing such a limit situation, residents reported feeling strengthened by this experience. This is consistent with the notion that when confronted with limit situations, we draw on our resources to overcome adversity and, in turn, reap existential gains. Health care providers might use these experiences to energize their own professional approach.

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