The experience of anaesthesiology care providers in temporary intensive care units during the COVID-19 pandemic in France: a qualitative study

Anaesth Crit Care Pain Med. 2022 Jun;41(3):101061. doi: 10.1016/j.accpm.2022.101061. Epub 2022 Apr 25.


Background: During the COVID-19 pandemic, care providers (CPs) worldwide grappled with the extraordinary number of severely ill patients with high fatality rates. The objective of this study is to explore the experience of anaesthesiology CPs in temporary intensive care units during the COVID-19 pandemic's first wave.

Methods: CPs were interviewed at a university hospital in Paris, France. We conducted a qualitative study using interpretative phenomenological analysis.

Results: Fifteen participants were included (five nurses, three nurse managers, and seven physicians). The analysis uncovered four themes: 1. Overworked care providers in an intensive care unit under pressure; 2. The disrupted relationship among patients, their families, and end-of-life care; 3. Short-term coping strategies; 4. A long-term transformative experience for care providers.

Discussion: The COVID-19 pandemic has drained CPs physically and emotionally. Infection control protocols, lack of knowledge about this new disease, the establishment of open-space care settings, and the disruption of relationships have posed ethical dilemmas, leading CPs to question the meaning of their profession, and their future professional involvement. CPs at both an individual and institutional level employed numerous coping strategies, relying on a strong team spirit and a reinforced sense of duty. Nevertheless, after the end of the first wave, participants described the long-lasting psychological impact of this experience and frustration at the lack of recognition from their institutions and from policymakers. This study can inform institutional interventions and public health policy to support CPs during and after such a crisis to ensure their well-being and high standards of care.

Keywords: COVID-19; anaesthesiology; anaesthesiology care providers; first wave; qualitative research; temporary ICU.

MeSH terms

  • Anesthesiology*
  • COVID-19*
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Pandemics
  • Qualitative Research