OBJECTIVE: During the first months of 2020, the coronavirus disease of 2019 (COVID-19) spread rapidly and soon reached a pandemic level. With the increasing number of hospitalizations, medical and nursing personnel resources were soon inadequate. As a consequence, medical volunteers became a key human resource and young medical residents in any specialty were hired on a voluntary basis to contribute to take care of patients with COVID-19. This study reports on the lived experience of residents in child neuropsychiatry who volunteered in Italian hotspot COVID-19-designated hospitals during the epidemic outbreak.
METHODS: A phenomenological, qualitative approach using semi-structured interviews with open-ended questions was used to obtain in-depth narratives of the experience of residents in child neuropsychiatry volunteering in North Italy COVID-19-designated hospitals. All residents (n = 8) participated in the study. Interviews were conducted by an expert researcher trained in qualitative methods. Data analysis was performed by independent coders.
RESULTS: Five core themes could be identified from the interviews: acting as mediators on two fronts, facing the shock of COVID-19 reality, capitalizing from specialty education, growing as persons and professionals, and humanizing medical care.
CONCLUSIONS: This study is unique in providing an in-depth understanding of the experience of young residents in child neuropsychiatry volunteering in general hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic in Northern Italy. The findings suggest that this experience may be highly beneficial for both the residents and the hospital quality of care. Insights for an accurate planning of residents' engagement in future healthcare emergencies are provided.