'Who will do it if I don't?' Nurse anaesthetists' experiences of working in the intensive care unit during the COVID-19 pandemic

Aust Crit Care. 2022 Jan;35(1):52-58. doi: 10.1016/j.aucc.2021.11.003. Epub 2021 Nov 19.


Background: During the COVID-19 pandemic, the workload on the intensive care unit (ICU) increased nationally in Sweden as well as globally. Certified registered nurse anaesthetists (CRNAs) in Sweden were transferred at short notice to work with seriously ill patients with COVID-19 in the ICU, which is not part of the CRNAs' specialist area. However, limited research has shed light on healthcare professionals' experiences of the pandemic.

Objectives: This study illuminates CRNAs' experiences of working in the ICU during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Methods: This study used a qualitative method with an inductive approach to interview nurse anaesthetists who worked in the ICU during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Findings: The participants experienced ambivalent feelings towards their work in the ICU. They also lacked information, which created feelings of uncertainty and resulted in expectations that did not correspond to the reality. They described that owing to an inadequate introduction, they could only provide "sufficient" care, which in many cases caused ethical stress. Not being able to get to know their new colleagues well enough to create effective cooperation created frustration. Even though the participants experienced the work in the ICU as demanding and challenging, overall, they enjoyed their time in the ICU and were treated well by their colleagues.

Conclusions: Although CRNAs cannot replace intensive care nurses, they are a useful resource in the ICU in the care of patients with COVID-19. Healthcare workers who are allocated from their ordinary units to the ICU need adequate information and support from their work managers to be able to provide the best possible care and to stay healthy themselves.

Keywords: COVID-19 pandemic; Certified registered nurse anaesthetic; Intensive care unit; Intensive care unit nurse.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19*
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Nurse Anesthetists
  • Pandemics
  • SARS-CoV-2