Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland
Work-related experiences of consultant psychiatrists during the COVID-19 response.....pdf (449.31 kB)

Work-related experiences of consultant psychiatrists during the COVID-19 response: qualitative analysis

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-03-29, 10:58 authored by Shane O'Donnell, Etain Quigley, John HaydenJohn Hayden, Dimitrios Adamis, Blánaid Gavin, Fiona McNicholas

Background: Research has begun to draw attention to the challenges mental health professionals faced in delivering services during the COVID-19 pandemic response. However, few studies have examined the specific experiences of consultant psychiatrists.

Aims: To examine the work-related experiences and psychosocial needs of consultant psychiatrists situated in the Republic of Ireland arising from the COVID-19 response.

Method: We interviewed 18 consultant psychiatrists and analysed data using inductive thematic analysis.

Results: Work-related experience of participants was characterised by increased workload associated with assumption of guardianship of physical and mental health of vulnerable patients. Unintended consequences of public health restrictions increased case complexity, limited availability of alternative supports and hindered the practice of psychiatry, including inhibiting peer support systems for psychiatrists. Participants perceived available psychological supports as generally unsuitable for their needs given their specialty. Long-standing under-resourcing, mistrust in management and high levels of burnout exacerbated the psychological burden of the COVID-19 response.

Conclusions: The challenges of leading mental health services were evident in the increased complexity involved in caring for vulnerable patients during the pandemic, contributing to uncertainty, loss of control and moral distress among participants. These dynamics worked synergistically with pre-existing system-level failures, eroding capacity to mount an effective response. The longer-term psychological well-being of consultant psychiatrists - as well as the pandemic preparedness of healthcare systems - is contingent on implementation of policies addressing long-standing under-investment in the services vulnerable populations rely on, not least community mental health services.


Newman Fellow for the Aoife Galvin/AIB Newman Fellowship in Frontline & Adolescent Mental Health programme



The original article is available at

Published Citation

O'Donnell S. et al. Work-related experiences of consultant psychiatrists during the COVID-19 response: qualitative analysis. BJPsych Open. 2023;9(2):e49

Publication Date

6 March 2023

PubMed ID



  • School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences


Cambridge University Press


  • Published Version (Version of Record)