Nursing in the time of COVID-19: exploring nurse preparedness early in a global pandemic

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Ged Williams
Anastasia Gunn
Amy Sweeny


COVID-19, nurse, social media, disaster preparedness, pandemic


Objective: To obtain Australian nurses’ perspectives regarding COVID-19 preparedness early in the pandemic. Background: In March 2020 Australia experienced a rise in COVID-19 cases and was bracing itself for the worst, having witnessed China, Europe and America’s earlier exposure to the outbreak. On 14 March 2020 an Australian nurse set up a Facebook page called “Nursing in the time of COVID-19: A clinical forum” allowing colleagues to share information about COVID-19. This presented an ideal opportunity to survey nurses’ preparedness for the pandemic. Study design and methods: Anonymous web-based survey disseminated between 9 April–4 May 2020 via the Facebook page. Results: A total of 214 nurses responded to the survey of whom 85% were direct care clinical staff and 29 (13.5%) had cared for a COVID-19 patient. Prevalent feelings regarding COVID-19 were anxious, overwhelmed, vulnerable, engaged and interested. The strongest sources of information regarding COVID-19 were published academic articles, WHO/ CDC and similar authorities, employer leaflets/ guidance and Facebook. The strongest needs/ expectations identified by the respondents were education and information, access to mental health counselling, provision of additional health workers to support nurses, and supplemental pay rise. Respondents identified work-related training specific to COVID-19, revision of skills and competencies and upskilling to do tasks previously not familiar to the participant of particular benefit. Nurses who had cared  for COVID-19 patients expressed a stronger interest in receiving a supplemental pay rise for risk exposure, a stronger sense that they and their employer were ready to care for COVID-19 patients yet expressed less appreciation for mental health counselling compared to nurses who had not yet cared for COVID-19 patients. Discussion: The perspectives of Australian nurses are generally similar to nurses in other countries. However, we report some variations between nurses who have and have not cared for COVID-19 patients. We identify the levels of concern as well as those supportive actions that are most appreciated by nurses responding to COVID-19 specifically, these same findings could be applied to other major events generally. Conclusion: The timing of this survey allowed us to explore the perspectives of Australian nurses during the early pandemic vulnerability period without the benefit of hindsight. Despite thinking the Australian experience was going to be worse than it was, Australian nurses showed relative confidence in their own and their employers’ readiness and this was most obvious in nurses who had cared for COVID-19 patients.

What is already known about the topic?

  • Nurses around the world have voiced anxiety and concern about the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact it may have on them personally and professionally.

  • Nurses have access to informal networks, social media, media, employer guidelines and other professional and academic sources of information to stay informed and up-to-date with current information on COVID-19 that may help to allay their concerns.

What this paper adds

  • The perspectives of Australian nurses early in the development of the COVID-19 pandemic in relation to how prepared they felt at the time and where they were obtaining information to help guide their thinking and their practice.

  • A synopsis of the role and benefits of a social media platform to allow nurses to share thoughts, articles of interest and experiences of COVID-19.

  • Opinions vary based on whether a nurse had already cared for a COVID-19 patient or not.

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