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Critical care nursing during the COVID-19 pandemic: a story of resilience

26 November 2020
Volume 29 · Issue 21


In this article, an intensive care unit (ICU) nurse provides some reflections on caring for patients with COVID-19 and relates her lived experience to the concept of resilience. Similarities and differences to pre-pandemic understandings of resilience are drawn out and factors that mediate acute stress, resilience and psychological recovery during a pandemic are considered. Resources to support ICU nurses and other healthcare staff to manage stress and promote wellbeing are signposted, and important research directions that warrant attention are recommended. The story is one of learning and hope and, importantly, it captures key lessons that can equip healthcare staff with positive coping strategies in a time of unprecedented pressure.

Resilience is often derived from personal resources, eg personality traits, cognitive abilities and worldviews, and also from environmental resources eg social support systems, cultural practices and spiritual beliefs (Jackson et al, 2007; Martin-Soelch and Schnyder, 2019). In normal circumstances resilience has been defined as:

Interventions to foster the resilience of healthcare staff include variants of cognitive behavioural therapy, physical exercise, developing social support systems and engagement with the arts either as a recipient or artist, eg through written expression (All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing (APPG), 2017; Mealer et al, 2017). However, these activities take time and commitment, neither of which is readily available in and out of the workplace during a pandemic. This is particularly so for nurses who have stepped up to intensive care unit (ICU) care from other departments, often in a baptism of fire.

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