Qualitative study exploring the well-being experiences of paediatric critical care consultants working in the UK during the COVID-19 pandemic

Isabelle Butcher, Sumayyah Saeed, Rachael Morrison, Peter Donnelly, Rachel Shaw*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: The aim of this study was to examine the well-being experiences of consultants working in paediatric critical care (PCC) settings in the UK during the COVID-19 pandemic. Design: Qualitative design using individual interviews and thematic analysis. Setting: PCC. Participants: Eleven medical consultants working in PCC in a range of PCC settings/transport teams in the UK from nine units participated. Participants ranged in years of experience as a consultant from four to 23 years. Methods: A set of open semistructured questions were used to elicit information about participants’ experiences of workplace well-being. Interviews were audiorecorded and transcribed. Findings: Thematic analysis identified six themes and data saturation was reached. These were as follows: (1) positive and negative impact of working during COVID-19, (2) job satisfaction and public scrutiny in the unique environment of PCC, (3) supporting the workforce through modified shift work, (4) perceptions of support and recognition offered from the hospital management, (5) successful coping strategies are personal and adaptive, and (6) importance of civility and good teamwork Conclusion: Findings show that consultants’ well-being is challenged in a number of ways and that the solutions to the problem of burn-out are multifaceted. Action is required from individual consultants, clinical teams, hospital management and national regulatory bodies. Our work corroborates the recent General Medical Council report highlighting doctors’ core needs for well-being: autonomy, belonging, competence. Burn-out is a long-term problem, requiring sustainable solutions. Future research needs to develop and evaluate the effectiveness of evidence-based interventions to improve consultants’ well-being. Trials of effectiveness need to present evidence that will persuade hospital management to invest in their consultants’ well-being within the economic context of reduced budgets and limited PCC workforce.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere063697
Pages (from-to)e063697
Number of pages10
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 29 Aug 2022

Bibliographical note

© Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2022. Re-use permitted under CC BY-NC. No commercial re-use. See rights and permissions. Published by BMJ. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/

Funding Information:
There was no funding for this study as it was undertaken as part of an MSc Health Psychology project at Aston University. IB’s time was funded by Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust Paediatric Intensive Care Charity funds through the sWell project, a single site project investigating staff wellbeing in paediatric intensive care at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, Birmingham, UK (Ref: 37-6-124).

Publisher Copyright:


  • COVID-19
  • Paediatric intensive & critical care


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