Nurses who work with respiratory patients, have been at the forefront of the pandemic response. Lessons need to be learnt from these nurses’ experiences in order to support these nurses during the existing pandemic and retain and mobilise this skilled workforce for future pandemics.

This study explores UK nurses’ experiences of working in a respiratory environment during the COVID-19 pandemic. We distributed an e-survey via professional respiratory societies [Association of Respiratory Nurse Specialists (ARNS), British Thoracic Society (BTS) and the Primary Care Respiratory Society (PCRS)] and social media in May 2020. The survey included a resilience scale, the GAD7 (anxiety) and the PHQ9 (depression) tools.

255 complete responses were received, predominately women (89%), aged over 40 (71%). Over 95% of the respondents were white, with a very small sample of BAME. 58% usually worked in an acute setting, 57% had changed their role due to the pandemic, and 49% were undertaking aerosol generating procedures. There were significant differences in anxiety and depression scores for those undertaking aerosol generating procedures (both p<0.001) and who worked in different clinical settings (depression only, p<0.05) Just over 50% experienced minimal symptoms of anxiety, 28.3% experienced mild symptoms and just over 20.9% experience moderate-to-severe symptoms. Nearly 52% experienced minimal depression symptoms, 30.9% experienced mild symptoms and 17.2% experienced moderate-to-severe symptoms. 45.8% had a moderate or moderately high resilience score. Regression analysis showed that being younger, having fewer years of nursing experience, and feeling unable to support your household were key predictors of increased symptoms of anxiety and depression.

This is the first UK study to look at resilience in nurses working in respiratory clinical areas during the COVID-19 pandemic. The average resilience scores were moderate – indicating some resilience which needs strengthening. Age and experience were shown to be significant predictors of resilience. Anxiety and depression levels were low but a proportion of respondents had high levels of anxiety and depression. Our findings show that younger, BAME, less experienced nurses have higher levels of anxiety and depression. We need to develop interventions to support them and help staff to maintain and improve their levels of resilience.


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Cite as

Roberts, N., McAloney-Kocaman, K., Welch, L., Ray, E., Lippiett, K. & Kelly, C. 2021, 'Resilience, anxiety and depression in nurses working in respiratory areas during the COVID-19 pandemic', Thorax, 76(Suppl 1), pp. A70-A70, article no: S116. https://doi.org/10.1136/thorax-2020-BTSabstracts.121

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Last updated: 12 November 2022
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