Nurses have been at the forefront of the pandemic response, involved in extensive coordination of services, screening, vaccination, and frontline work in respiratory, emergency and intensive care environments. The nature of this work is often intense and stress-provoking with an inevitable psychological impact on nurses and all healthcare workers. This study focused on nurses working in respiratory areas with the aim of identifying and characterising the self-reported issues that exacerbated or alleviated their concerns during the first wave of the COVID pandemic.

An online survey was developed consisting of a 90 questions utilising a mixture of open-ended and closed questions. Participant demographic data was also collected (age, gender, ethnicity, number of years qualified, details of long-term health conditions, geographical location, nursing background/role and home-life). The online survey was disseminated via social media and professional respiratory societies (British Thoracic Society, Primary Care Respiratory Society, Association of Respiratory Nurse Specialists) over a 3-week period in May 2020 and the survey closed on 1 June 2020.

The study highlights the experiences of nurses caring for respiratory patients during the first wave of the pandemic in early 2020. Concerns were expressed over the working environment, the supply and availability of adequate PPE, the quality-of-care individuals were able to deliver, and impacts on mental health to nurses and their families. A high number provided free text comments around their worries and concerns about the impact on their household, these included bringing the virus home, the effect on family members worrying about them, mental health and the impact of changing working patterns, and managing with children. Although both formal and informal support was available, there were inconsistencies in provision highlighting the importance of nursing leadership and management in ensuring equity of access to services.

Support for staff is essential both throughout the pandemic and afterwards and it is important that preparation of individuals regarding building resilience is recognised. It is also clear that psychological support and services for nurses and the wider healthcare team needs to be available and quickly convened in the event of similar major incidents, either global or local.


This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited, appropriate credit is given, any changes made indicated, and the use is non-commercial. See: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/.

Cite as

Roberts, N., Kelly, C., Lippiett, K., Ray, E. & Welch, L. 2021, 'Experiences of nurses caring for respiratory patients during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic: an online survey study', BMJ Open Respiratory Research, 8(1), article no: e000987. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjresp-2021-000987

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Last updated: 16 June 2022
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