Background: Shielding was introduced to protect clinically extremely vulnerable people during the COVID-19 pandemic. For junior doctors who had to shield, this meant pausing in-person clinical duties to protect their health. There is limited literature regarding this, and the available evidence is predominantly surveys or blogs that describe mainly negative experiences including guilt, isolation, inadequate support and Return To Work (RTW) concerns. Exploring the experiences of this group is valuable to understand the impact on them, and their support needs moving forward. Methods: This was a qualitative study using individual semi-structured interviews. Three junior doctors were recruited using volunteer and snowball sampling. Interview transcripts were analysed using thematic analysis. Findings: Seven themes were finalised: (1) Professional value, (2) Threatened autonomy, (3) Self-motivated, (4) Educational impact, (5) Mental health, (6) Inadequate support and (7) Return To Work concerns. Discussion: Participant experiences largely reflected the evidence base including increased skill and knowledge acquisition, alongside guilt, isolation and inadequate support whilst shielding and upon RTW. These findings add valuable qualitative data to a scarcity of literature. However, caution should be applied when transferring these findings to other junior doctors, noting the small sample and regional setting. A small research grant has been secured for further research with a larger sample size incorporating the supervisor perspective. Conclusion: These findings demonstrate that shielding was a challenging experience for these junior doctors including impacts on mental health and insufficient support. This lack of support requires further attention to refine and strengthen available support structures.


This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Cite as

Martin, A. 2023, 'Experiences of junior doctors who shielded during the COVID-19 pandemic', The Clinical Teacher, article no: e13685. https://asmepublications.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/tct.13685

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Last updated: 30 October 2023
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