Resilience in Primary Healthcare Professionals: A Systematic Review

Helen D Robertson, Alison M Elliott, Christopher Burton, Lisa Iversen, Peter Murchie, Terry Porteous, Catriona Matheson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background Modern demands and challenges among healthcare professionals can be particularly stressful and resilience is increasingly necessary to maintain an effective, adaptable, and sustainable workforce. However, definitions of, and associations with, resilience have not been examined within the primary care context.

Aim To examine definitions and measures of resilience, identify characteristics and components, and synthesise current evidence about resilience in primary healthcare professionals.

Design and setting A systematic review was undertaken to identify studies relating to the primary care setting.

Method Ovid®, Embase®, CINAHL, PsycINFO, and Scopus databases were searched in December 2014. Text selections and data extraction were conducted by paired reviewers working independently. Data were extracted on health professional resilience definitions and associated factors.

Results Thirteen studies met the inclusion criteria: eight were quantitative, four qualitative, and one was an intervention study. Resilience, although multifaceted, was commonly defined as involving positive adaptation to adversity. Interactions were identified between personal growth and accomplishment in resilient physicians. Resilience, high persistence, high self-directedness, and low avoidance of challenges were strongly correlated; resilience had significant associations with traits supporting high function levels associated with demanding health professional roles. Current resilience measures do not allow for these different aspects in the primary care context.

Conclusion Health professional resilience is multifaceted, combining discrete personal traits alongside personal, social, and workplace features. A measure for health professional resilience should be developed and validated that may be used in future quantitative research to measure the effect of an intervention to promote it.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)423-433
Number of pages11
JournalThe British Journal of General Practice
Issue number647
Early online date10 May 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding body
The study was funded by NHS Grampian Endowments Fund Project No: 14/42.


  • resilience
  • primary care
  • health professionals
  • physicians
  • community health nurses


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