Aims and objectives: This study aimed to examine the lived experience of physicians and nurses who underwent hospitalised isolation during the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus outbreak that hit Korea in 2015, and how it may have affected their professional self-image. Background: Health professionals caring for patients during infectious outbreaks such as the Middle East respiratory syndrome have reported negative psychological effects. However, little is known about how the experience influences their professional self-image. Design: An interpretive phenomenological approach was applied using individual in-depth interviews. Methods: Through purposeful and snowball sampling, 11 health professionals who had experienced hospital isolation due to suspicious symptoms of Middle East respiratory syndrome during the outbreak, participated in face-to-face interviews (50–90 min). We adhered to the Consolidated Criteria for Reporting Qualitative Research guideline for reporting. Results: Six themes were identified: (a) engulfed in chaos and exhaustion; (b) feeling hurt and constrained by the rejection and blame; (c) anxiety induced by the enclosed environment; (d) dread of this uncertain and critical disease; (e) sustained by family and colleagues; and (f) reflection at this turning point, expanding self-understanding and seeking a balance. Conclusion: Hospitalised isolation was a “turning point” that appeared to change health professionals’ sense of identity and direction. Relevance to clinical practice: Preparedness for infectious epidemics should ensure tangible assistance, protection, and clear communication with health professionals, with careful attention to their psychological needs and affirmation of their self-image in the aftermath.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This study was funded by the 2018 Faculty‐Student Research Fund, College of Nursing, Yonsei University.
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