Narratives of NHS Nurses Working in Intensive Care Units During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Rationale and aims: The COVID-19 pandemic is thought to be the greatest challenge the United Kingdom (UK)’s intensive care units (ICUs) have faced. The literature on experiences of nurses working during the COVID-19 pandemic is rapidly evolving. However, there appears to be a scarcity of research on how nurses who worked in ICUs during the pandemic construct their experiences and identities, within social, cultural and political contexts. Methodology: A qualitative approach, specifically narrative inquiry, was employed to explore the accounts of six nurses, all of whom worked in an ICU during the COVID- 19 pandemic. The nurses were both ICU-trained nurses and redeployed nurses from other departments, recruited from a specialist cardiothoracic hospital. Nurses were interviewed individually using a semi-structured format. The content and structure of their narratives were analysed, with attention to performative and contextual aspects and the construction of narrative identity. Analysis: Nurses constructed rich, multi-layered narratives, enhancing the existing literature. Three broad stories were observed across the accounts: 1. “It came with like a bang”, 2. Working in the red zone, and 3. Looking back, looking forward. Nurses faced a multitude of morally challenging situations, including an inability to provide the usual standard of care, lack of adequate personal protective equipment (PPE), and faced the danger of contracting the virus and fears of infecting others. The analysis highlighted that the nurses worked to construct credible narratives that conveyed the difficulties they encountered. This particularly can be seen within the broader contention relating to the existence of the pandemic, despite being depicted as ‘heroes’ by society, the Government and the media. Clinical implications and future research suggestions are proposed.
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