Learning in intensive care during the COVID-19 pandemic postgraduate critical care nursing students' experiences

Int J Med Educ. 2022 Dec 29;13:335-344. doi: 10.5116/ijme.6399.ea3f.


Objectives: This study explored postgraduate critical care nursing students' experiences of learning in the ICU during the COVID-19 pandemic and to understand these experiences in relation to self-directed learning and professional development.

Methods: An explorative qualitative design was used. Eight postgraduate critical care nursing students from two different universities were interviewed. Questions focused on learning, supervision, ethically difficult situations, issues regarding communication, as well as the impact of the pandemic on students' health. Interviews thematically analyzed, and further analyzed using a theoretical framework focusing self-directed learning and professional development containing the concepts of autonomy, authenticity, and attachment.

Results: The result consists of three themes: 1) Attachment with subthemes Attachment to the patient, Attachment to family and friends, Attachment to the ICU-context, and Attachment to the clinical supervisor. 2) Authenticity with subthemes Experiencing a varying degree of authenticity, Clinical reasoning about how to prioritize care. 3) Autonomy with subthemes Being just a student - with limited responsibility, taking responsibility, and having worries regarding one's professional development. Conclusion: Findings show the need for participation in the ICU community of practice without the demands and responsibility of full participation. Students need to be given the opportunity to form a relationship with practice. For attachment, participation, and consequently professional development to take place, there is need for inviting students to be a part of the team even during such straining circumstances as an ongoing pandemic. These findings can advance the understanding of how to organize clinical education during future crisis such as a new pandemic.

Keywords: attachment; authenticity; autonomy; covid-19; critical care nursing; critical care nursing students; preceptorship; professional development.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Critical Care
  • Critical Care Nursing* / education
  • Humans
  • Pandemics
  • Students, Nursing*