Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)



Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Jean Croce Hemphill

Committee Members

Susan Epps, Robin Foreman, Katherine Hall


Limited research exists about the experiences of nurses’ caring for patients during the COVID-19 pandemic post hoc. To understand nurses’ realities of caring for patients with COVID-19, I aimed to understand the lived experience of nurses caring for patients with COVID-19 in the United States. A qualitative design with a hermeneutic phenomenological methodology was used. Sixteen participants were recruited via purposive sampling, augmented with snowball sampling. Data were collected through unstructured interviews and were analyzed using Braun and Clarke’s Reflexive Thematic Analysis. Nurses’ experiences of caring for patients with COVID-19 in the U.S. were consolidated into four themes: “a living hell”; “rationing patient safety”; “mental aftermath of the war zone”; and “post-pandemic pride”. Nurses provided patient care amidst challenging environments of limited to no resources, with extensive, large-scale critically ill patients, and patient deaths. Due to overwhelming patient care demands, nurses were unable to provide safe patient care to everyone in need, resulting in patient deterioration and death. These experiences caused nurses to endure maladaptive mental effects, such as compassion fatigue and moral suffering, which can threaten the safety of patients. Despite these undesirable results, nurses continued to provide patient care and expressed feelings of pride in the profession of nursing for surviving the COVID-19 pandemic. However, this study demonstrates the persistent impacts on nurses’ abilities to provide safe care after the crisis years. Support for nurses is recommended to preserve patient safety.

Document Type

Dissertation - embargo


Copyright by the authors.

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