Purpose: The aim was to identify the differences in experiences of Danish healthcare leaders in the beginnning of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and to generate knowledge for future leadership during and post crises.

Background: The global spread of COVID-19 has affected healthcare systems worldwide and has forced healthcare leaders to face challenges few were prepared for. It is expected that the pandemic may hit in several waves within the next year and therefore healthcare leaders must be prepared for these waves.

Methods: An online survey was developed, and comparative analyses were performed.

Results: One hundred and sixty hospital leaders were invited, and 72% completed the questionnaire. Significant differences were found within three selected characteristics: 1) Management level: significantly more heads of departments experienced taking complex decisions (P=0.05), being able to work in a way consistent with their beliefs and values (P=0.05), and they were less likely to experience that collaboration with other leaders was adversely affected by the COVID-19 situation compared to ward managers (P=0.04). On the other hand, ward managers were significantly more often worried about both their own health (P=0.01) and their family’s health (P=0.04). 2) Management education: those with a formal management education more often experienced having the managerial competences to effectively manage the COVID-19 situation (P=0.00), and performing meaningful tasks during the situation (P=0.04). 3) Years of experience: significantly more leaders with more than five years of experience identified having the managerial competences to effectively manage the situation (P=0.01).

Conclusion: Leadership support during a healthcare crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic should strategically focus on ward managers, leaders with no formal management education and leaders with less than two years of experience. Hospital leaders may use this knowledge to re-contextualize what is already known about targeted leadership support during healthcare crises and to act accordingly.


This work is published and licensed by Dove Medical Press Limited. The full terms of this license are available at https://www.dovepress.com/terms.php and incorporate the Creative Commons Attribution - Non Commercial (unported, v3.0) License. By accessing the work you hereby accept the Terms. Non-commercial uses of the work are permitted without any further permission from Dove Medical Press Limited, provided the work is properly attributed. For permission for commercial use of this work, please see paragraphs 4.2 and 5 of our Terms.

Cite as

Hølge-Hazelton, B., Kjerholt, M., Rosted, E., Thestrup Hansen, S., Zacho Borre, L. & McCormack, B. 2021, 'Health professional frontline leaders' experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic: A cross-sectional study', Journal of Healthcare Leadership, 13, pp. 7-18. https://doi.org/10.2147/JHL.S287243

Downloadable citations

Download HTML citationHTML Download BIB citationBIB Download RIS citationRIS
Last updated: 17 June 2022
Was this page helpful?