Experiences of clinical first-line nurses treating patients with COVID-19: A qualitative study

J Nurs Manag. 2020 Sep;28(6):1381-1390. doi: 10.1111/jonm.13095. Epub 2020 Aug 13.


Aim: To explore the work experience of clinical first-line nurses treating patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Background: COVID-19 has been listed as an international public health emergency. Clinical first-line nurses are at a high risk of infection, and they face a lack of experience and inadequate preparation for COVID-19, leading to physical and psychological disorders.

Methods: A qualitative study was conducted from January to February 2020 at a COVID-19-designated hospital in Wuhan, China. Thirty nurses were selected for the study using a purposive sampling method. Data were collected by semi-structured interviews and analysed using content analysis.

Results: Two main categories were defined in the study from the perspective of nurses: negative experiences during clinical first-line work and positive impacts of clinical first-line work. Under the first category, two subcategories were included: psychological experiences of clinical first-line work and difficulties faced during clinical first-line work. The analysis further yielded two subcategories for the second category: the needs of clinical first-line work and the impact of clinical first-line work on professional attitudes.

Conclusions: The results demonstrate that success depends upon strengthening emergency training and knowledge of infectious diseases for nurses, providing adequate protective equipment and improving the emergency response plans of hospitals for public health emergencies.

Implications for nursing management: It is believed that our findings will guide hospital managers to make improvements in personal, administrative and institutional areas and that they will provide a reference and inspiration for nurses with regard to public health emergencies in the future.

Keywords: COVID-19; first-line nurses; public health emergency; qualitative study; work experience.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • COVID-19 / epidemiology
  • COVID-19 / nursing*
  • China / epidemiology
  • Empathy
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital / psychology*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Young Adult