Document Type


Publication Date



This article is the authors’ pre-print version prior to publication in Applied Nursing Research, Volume 60, August 2021, Article number 151437.

The published version is available at Copyright © Gray et al.


BACKGROUND: The US healthcare settings and staff have been stretched to capacity by the COVID-19 pandemic. While COVID-19 continues to threaten global healthcare delivery systems and populations, its impact on nursing has been profound.

OBJECTIVES: This study aimed to document nurses' immediate reactions, major stressors, effective measures to reduce stress, coping strategies, and motivators as they provided care during COVID-19.

DESIGN: Mixed-methods, cross sectional design. Participants responded to objective and open-ended questions on the COVID-19 Nurses' Survey.

PARTICIPANTS: The survey, was sent to nurses employed in health care settings during the pandemic; 110 nurses participated.

RESULTS: Immediate reactions of respondents were nervousness and call of duty; major stressors were uncertainty, inflicting the virus on family, lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), and protocol inconsistencies. Effective measures to reduce stress identified were financial incentives and mental health support. Most frequently used coping strategies were limiting televised news about the virus, talking with family and friends, and information, Motivators to participate in future care included having adequate PPE and sense of duty. Bivariate analysis of outcomes by age group, education, work setting, and marital status was performed. Nurse respondents with higher advanced degrees had significantly less fear than those with BSN-only degrees (p < .05).Of respondents who were married/living with a partner, 85.9% listing "uncertainty about when the pandemic will be under control" as a major stressor (p < .05), while 62.8% of those who were single/divorced/widowed (p = .015) did so. Further, 75% of respondents working in critical care listed "mental health services" as important (p = .054). Four major qualitative themes emerged: What is going on here?; How much worse can this get?; What do I do now?; What motivates me to do future work?

CONCLUSION: The study found nurses were motivated by ethical duty to care for patients with COVID-19 despite risk to self and family, leaving nurses vulnerable to moral distress and burnout. This research articulates the need for psychological support, self- care initiatives, adequate protection, information, and process improvements in the healthcare systems to reduce the risk of moral distress, injury and burnout among nurses.

PubMed ID




Included in

Nursing Commons