RNs have served as the bedrock of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, working under unprecedented and difficult conditions. In this study, we sought to understand the experiences of nurses working across a range of care settings in the United States during the first six months of the pandemic, and to learn more about barriers to and facilitators of their work.
This is a qualitative descriptive study. We recruited participants online through regional professional nursing membership listservs, program directors of occupational health nursing training programs, and social media. After completing a survey, potential participants were invited to complete an individual semistructured interview via the Zoom platform. From June through August 2020, we conducted 34 interviews. Content analysis was performed using ATLAS.ti software.
The overarching theme—“Losing the art and failing the science of nursing”—underscored the barriers nurses faced in the early months of this pandemic. It reflected the deeply painful disruptions in the care nurses were accustomed to providing their patients. Themes that reflected barriers included disrupted nurse–patient connection, lack of personal protective equipment and fear of infection, lack of evidence-based guidance, and understaffing, all of which drastically altered the delivery of nursing care. Themes that reflected facilitators to nurses' work included camaraderie and strength and resourcefulness.
The study findings give important direction to nurse leaders, researchers, and organizations concerning potential areas of support that nurses need during and after this pandemic. Future research should investigate the long-term impact of COVID-19 and similar public health crises on nurses, as well as interventions that could support the workforce after an extended crisis.