Healthcare professionals’ experiences during the initial stage of the COVID-19 pandemic in the ICU, a qualitative study

  • Author: Camilla Bekker Mortensen, Josephine Zachodnik, Sidsel Fjordbak Caspersen, Anja Geisler

  • Published: Intensive and Critical Care Nursing, August 2021


Background: The COVID-19 pandemic called for rapidly considerable changes in the healthcare system. Healthcare professionals from different departments within the hospital settings were enrolled in the emergency preparedness. This study, therefore, aimed to explore the healthcare professionals’ experiences attending the ICU-preparedness and caring for patients with COVID-19 during the initial stage of the pandemic.

Methods: A descriptive explorative qualitative study was conducted by interviewing healthcare professionals during spring 2020, exploring their experiences as part of the ICU-preparedness team and caring for patients with COVID-19 in the ICU. Healthcare professionals from different departments were recruited by purposive sampling. The interviews were transcribed verbatim and analysed using content analysis.

Findings: Sixteen nurses and four physicians from a university hospital in Denmark participated. The analysis revealed three main themes and eight sub-themes. The main themes were (1) Professionalism in work-life (adaption, the patient’s welfare, insecurity, and security), (2) Community Spirit (responsibility and contribution), and (3) Institutional organisation (the role of management, loss of freedom, and information).

Interpretation: Despite work specialities and professions, the participants reported a uniformity of similar experiences of uncertainties, but also a sense of community arose during the first phase of COVID-19.

Recommendations: To ensure resilience and mental health, and well-being for the healthcare professionals, comprehensive support should be provided. Guidelines for interventions and training are necessary to promote preparedness and reduce psychological stress.

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