Doctors at a hospital
Nurses Week 2024

Nurse Week 2024, Day 3 – Strength in Scrubs: The Resilience of Nurses During COVID-19

Saverio Curcio | 08 May 2024
5 minute read

Nurses dispense comfort, compassion, and caring without even a prescription.

—Val Saintsbury

Nurses Week is an opportunity to honor the remarkable contributions of nurses to healthcare. This year, the celebration takes on added significance as we reflect on the extraordinary challenges nurses faced during the COVID-19 pandemic. As frontline warriors, nurses have played a pivotal role in managing the crisis, providing essential care to patients, and offering support to families worldwide during unprecedented times. Below, we explore how nurses have risen to the occasion throughout the COVID-19 outbreak.

Increased Workloads and Long Hours

Nurses have been working tirelessly during the pandemic, often putting in long hours and taking on increased workloads to care for patients. According to the American Nurses Association (ANA), nurses have been working an average of 12-16 hour shifts during the pandemic, with many working overtime or taking on extra shifts to meet the demands of the crisis. This increased workload has taken a toll on nurses, leading to burnout and other health concerns.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Shortages

Early in the pandemic, many healthcare facilities faced shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE), such as masks, gloves, and gowns. This put nurses and other healthcare workers at risk of contracting the virus, as they were often forced to reuse or go without proper PPE. According to the ANA, as of March 2021, more than 3,600 nurses in the U.S. have died from COVID-19, highlighting the risks that nurses have faced during the pandemic.

Emotional and Mental Health Impact

The COVID-19 outbreak has also taken a toll on the emotional and mental health of nurses. Nurses have been dealing with unprecedented levels of stress, anxiety, and grief during the pandemic, as they care for patients and face their own risks of contracting the virus. According to a survey by the ANA, more than half of nurses reported feeling overwhelmed or burned out due to the pandemic, with many reporting symptoms of anxiety, depression, and PTSD.

Insights from Recent Studies

A critical study by Sagherian et al. (2020) further illuminates the substantial psychological and physical burdens faced by hospital nursing staff across the United States during the early stages of the pandemic. This cross-sectional study found that a significant majority of nursing staff experienced subthreshold insomnia and reported moderate-to-high levels of chronic fatigue, reflecting severe disruption in both sleep patterns and energy levels. Furthermore, nurses directly involved in the care of COVID-19 patients reported worse outcomes compared to their colleagues not assigned to COVID-19 units, indicating the intense impact of direct patient care during the pandemic. These findings underscore the urgent need for healthcare facilities to implement robust support systems to address mental health and adjust work schedules to ensure adequate rest and recovery periods for nurses.

Diverse Impact Across Nursing Specialties – Adaptations, Innovation, and Resilience

The COVID-19 pandemic has not only strained the general nursing workforce but has also uniquely impacted nurses in specialized roles. Advanced practice nurses (APNs) and those with specific specialties faced unprecedented challenges as they were often required to extend beyond their traditional scopes of practice to meet the urgent needs of the healthcare system.

A study by Woo et al. (2021) highlights how advanced practice nursing education and practice were heavily influenced by the pandemic. Many APNs found themselves at the forefront, adapting their practices to accommodate the sudden surge in patient load and severity of cases. This adaptation included shifting more towards critical care settings, managing complex cases, and even overseeing triage protocols to prioritize care based on urgency. The rapid pivot not only tested their clinical skills but also their capacity to lead under pressure, often with limited resources.

Despite these challenges, the pandemic also spurred innovation within nursing practice. Telehealth became a critical component, with APNs quickly adapting to provide remote care and consultations, ensuring that non-COVID patients continued to receive necessary medical attention (cough cough, check out Our Remote Care Programs). This shift not only helped in managing the patient load but also exemplified the versatility and resilience of nurses in adapting to new technologies and methods of patient care.

Educational Adjustments

Educational programs for nurses were also swiftly modified to ensure that the forthcoming workforce was prepared for the evolving demands of the pandemic. Simulation-based learning and virtual classrooms became the norm, enabling student nurses and novices to learn critical care skills in a controlled environment, preparing them for real-world scenarios they would soon face.

Appreciating Nurses

Despite these challenges, nurses have continued to provide critical care and support to patients and their families during the pandemic. Their dedication and commitment to healthcare are truly admirable, and it is important to recognize their contributions not just during Nurses Week, but every day of the year.

As the leader in Remote Care, Optimize Health understands the vital role that nurses play in healthcare. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), nurses account for more than half of the healthcare workforce worldwide, making them essential to the functioning of the healthcare system. So let us take this opportunity to thank and appreciate nurses for their hard work and dedication during the COVID-19 outbreak and every day.


  • American Nurses Association (ANA): “The Impact of COVID-19 on Nursing” – Link
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): “Healthcare Personnel and First Responders: How to Cope with Stress and Build Resilience During the COVID-19 Pandemic” – Link
  • World Health Organization (WHO): “State of the World’s Nursing 2020: Investing in Education, Jobs, and Leadership” – Link
  • Sagherian et al. (2020): “Insomnia, fatigue and psychosocial well-being during COVID-19 pandemic: A cross-sectional survey of hospital nursing staff in the United States”
  • Woo, B., Poon, S. N., Tam, W., & Zhou, W. (2021). The impact of COVID-19 on advanced practice nursing education and practice: A qualitative study. International Nursing Review. DOI: 10.1111/inr.12732. This study explores the adaptability of advanced practice nurses during the COVID-19 pandemic and their transition to incorporating telehealth into patient care. Read more about the study’s findings and recommendations.