Nurses’ barriers to caring for patients with COVID-19: a qualitative systematic review

Jee Young Joo, Megan F. Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

97 Citations (Scopus)


Aim: The aim of this qualitative systematic review is to identify and synthesize qualitative studies of frontline nurses’ experiences and challenges when caring for patients with COVID-19 in hospitals. Background: This review is the first qualitative systematic review of nurses’ experiences since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Understanding nurses’ experiences with COVID-19 is important because nurses are among the most vital of healthcare workers. Methods: This study used a qualitative systematic review methodology with thematic synthesis to analyse the included studies. Five databases (CINAHL, PubMed, Ovid, Web of Science, and PsycINFO) were searched from January to mid-August 2020, and 25 abstracts were screened. Based on inclusion criteria, this qualitative systematic review included nine studies. Results: Five themes were identified as barriers to COVID-19 care by 133 hospital-based nurses: limited information about COVID-19, unpredictable tasks and challenging practices, insufficient support, concerns about family, and emotional and psychological stress. Conclusions: The five barriers identified in this review should be overcome to improve nurses’ experiences and, in turn, the quality of care patients with COVID-19 receive. Implications for nursing and health policy: The findings from this review can be used to reform current healthcare and hospital-support systems for populations with COVID-19. They can also be used to point towards areas of research interested in improving frontline nursing. Finally, nursing leaders, healthcare policymakers and governments should use these findings to better support the nursing workforce in the current or a future pandemic.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)202-213
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Nursing Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021


  • COVID-19
  • Nurses
  • Nursing experience
  • Qualitative studies
  • Qualitative synthesis
  • Qualitative systematic review
  • Leadership
  • Pandemics
  • Nurse's Role
  • Humans
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital/organization & administration
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • COVID-19/epidemiology
  • Pneumonia, Viral/epidemiology
  • Quality of Health Care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Nursing


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