Critical Care Nurses' Experiences of Caring for Patients With COVID-19: Results of a Thematic Analysis

Am J Crit Care. 2022 Jul 1;31(4):275-282. doi: 10.4037/ajcc2022784.


Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged health care professionals, especially those working in intensive care units (ICUs).

Objectives: To explore critical care nurses' experiences with and perceptions of the COVID-19 pandemic during the early phases of the pandemic.

Methods: Data were from national surveys conducted during March and April 2020 to assess ICU providers' perceptions of the initial phases of the pandemic. A total of 831 responses from nurses to open-ended questions were examined by using thematic analysis. The questions assessed potentially limited resources in the ICU, adequacy of staffing, and measures used to reduce the possibility of spreading COVID-19 to family members.

Results: Overarching themes concerned access to equipment and preventive measures taken to reduce exposure to the virus. These themes included "sheltering the patient when I don't have enough" and "protecting those I love when I am a vector of transmission." Subthemes for the first overarching theme included not having enough personal protective equipment, not enough staff and not enough properly trained staff, and not enough institutional support. Subthemes for the second overarching theme included "isolating myself from everyone I care about" and "isolating everything I touch from everyone I care about."

Conclusions: This thematic analysis identified several concerns of ICU nurses related to caring for patients in the initial phases of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ensuring adequate supplies, staffing, and administrative and emotional support are provided to frontline health care providers during the ongoing pandemic remains essential.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19*
  • Critical Care
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Nurses*
  • Pandemics / prevention & control