Broken bones and apple brandy: resilience and sensemaking of general practitioners and their at-risk patients during the COVID-19 pandemic in Switzerland.

Hoeks, Rebekah A; Deml, Michael J; Dubois, Julie; Senn, Oliver; Streit, Sven; Rachamin, Yael; Jungo, Katharina Tabea (2024). Broken bones and apple brandy: resilience and sensemaking of general practitioners and their at-risk patients during the COVID-19 pandemic in Switzerland. Anthropology & medicine, 30(4), pp. 346-361. Taylor & Francis 10.1080/13648470.2023.2269523

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In early 2020, when the first COVID-19 cases were confirmed in Switzerland, the federal government started implementing measures such as national stay-at-home recommendations and a strict limitation of health care services use. General practitioners (GPs) and their at-risk patients faced similar uncertainties and grappled with subsequent sensemaking of the unprecedented situation. Qualitative interviews with 24 GPs and 37 at-risk patients were conducted which were analyzed using thematic analysis. Weick's (1993) four sources of -resilience - improvisation, virtual role systems, attitudes of wisdom and respectful interaction - heuristically guide the exploration of on-the-ground experiences and informal ways GPs and their at-risk patients sought to ensure continuity of primary care. GPs used their metaphorical Swiss army knives of learned tools as well as existing knowledge and relationships to adapt to the extenuating circumstances. Through improvisation, GPs and patients found pragmatic solutions, such as using local farmer apple brandy as disinfectant or at-home treatments of clavicle fractures. Through virtual role systems, GPs and patients came to terms with new and shifting roles, such as "good soldier" and "at-risk patient" categorizations. Both parties adopted attitudes of wisdom by accepting that they could not know everything. They also diversified their sources of information through personal relationships, formal networks, and the internet. The GP-patient relationship grew in importance through respectful interaction, and intersubjective reflection helped make sense of shifting roles and ambiguous guidelines. The empirical analysis of this paper contributes to theoretical considerations of sensemaking, resilience, crisis settings and health systems.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


04 Faculty of Medicine > Medical Education > Institute of General Practice and Primary Care (BIHAM)

UniBE Contributor:

Streit, Sven, Jungo, Katharina Tabea


600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 360 Social problems & social services




Taylor & Francis


[4] Swiss National Science Foundation




Pubmed Import

Date Deposited:

31 Jan 2024 07:58

Last Modified:

08 Feb 2024 15:28

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

COVID-19 Switzerland continuity of care general practitioners primary care risk patients




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