Intensive care nurses’ experiences of caring for isolated COVID-positive patients during first wave of COVID-19

Allan Køster, Anthony Vincent Fernandez, Christian Sylvest Meyhoff, Lars Peter Kloster Andersen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Background: COVID-19 has fundamentally changed all fields of health care. Intensive care nurses have been at the forefront of the pandemic facing the massive impact of the disease, both professionally and personally. This study investigated nurses’ experiences of caring for isolated COVID-19 positive patients in the intensive care department during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. The study investigated how isolation affected the nurses themselves, how they related with their patients, and how isolation affected patient care in general. Methods: The study was performed at a 20-bed university hospital intensive care department in Copenhagen, Denmark. COVID-19 positive patients were isolated or cohort isolated. A dedicated nurse cared for each isolated patient and wore full personal protective equipment. The study is based on in-depth phenomenological interviews with intensive care nurses conducted in summer 2020. The interviews were structured according to the principles of “Phenomenologically Grounded Qualitative Research.” The data included observations from within the isolated patient rooms. Findings: Six intensive care nurses participated in the study. The analysis documented following themes consistently reported by all nurses: (1) a general sense of uncanniness, (2) intense feelings of confinement and co-isolation, and (3) heightened senses of bodily objectification, including how nurses’ experienced their patients and also themselves. Conclusion: This is the first Scandinavian phenomenological study to focus on mapping the experiences of intensive care nurses during the extreme circumstances of the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Further studies may explore long-term effects, such as psychiatric morbidity or psychological functioning in these individuals.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of the Intensive Care Society
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)379-385
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2023


  • Covid
  • intensive care
  • isolation


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