Providing care and facing death: nursing during Ebola outbreaks in central Africa

J Transcult Nurs. 2005 Oct;16(4):289-97. doi: 10.1177/1043659605278935.


Few studies have focused on describing the experiences of health care workers during rapid killing epidemics. In this article, the views and experiences of nurses during three outbreaks of Ebola hemorrhagic fever (EHF) in Central Africa are examined. These three outbreaks occurred in Kikwit, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC, 1995); Gulu, Uganda (2000-2001); and Republic of Congo (ROC, 2003). Open-ended and semistructured interviews with individuals and small groups were conducted during the outbreaks in Uganda and ROC; data from DRC are extracted from published sources. Three key themes emerged from the interviews: (a) lack of protective gear, basic equipment, and other resources necessary to provide care, especially during the early phases of the outbreaks; (b) stigmatization by family, coworkers, and community; and (c) exceptional commitment to the nursing profession in a context where the lives of the health care workers were in jeopardy.

MeSH terms

  • Altruism
  • Attitude of Health Personnel* / ethnology
  • Attitude to Death / ethnology
  • Attitude to Health / ethnology
  • Congo / epidemiology
  • Cultural Characteristics
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo / epidemiology
  • Disease Outbreaks / prevention & control
  • Disease Outbreaks / statistics & numerical data
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Family / psychology
  • Fear
  • Focus Groups
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Hemorrhagic Fever, Ebola / epidemiology
  • Hemorrhagic Fever, Ebola / prevention & control*
  • Hemorrhagic Fever, Ebola / transmission
  • Humans
  • Infection Control / instrumentation
  • Infection Control / methods
  • Infectious Disease Transmission, Patient-to-Professional / prevention & control*
  • Medicine, African Traditional
  • Models, Psychological
  • Nursing Methodology Research
  • Nursing Staff / psychology*
  • Occupational Health*
  • Professional Competence
  • Stereotyping
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Uganda / epidemiology