burnout, COVID, critical care nursing, palliative care, pandemic stress



  1. Landreth, Sara DNP, ACCNS-AG, ACHPN, CCRN
  2. Pridgeon, Sean DNP, RN
  3. Ge, Bin MD, MA
  4. Craig, Kevin MD, MSPH, HMDC
  5. Scott, Susan D. PhD, RN, CPPS, FAAN


Nominal research illustrates the lived experience of intensive care unit registered nurses during the COVID pandemic. Palliative care team leaders and nurse researchers designed this cross-sectional study to discover opportunities for palliative care team members to enhance the experience of nurses who cared for critically ill patients during this challenging time. The study aimed to compare the effect of caring for patients in COVID versus non-COVID units. Surveys were distributed after the area's initial COVID patient influx. Questions included general demographics, the Professional Quality of Life survey instrument (measuring compassion satisfaction, burnout, and secondary traumatic stress), and open-ended questions to identify protective factors and unique challenges. Across 5 care settings with 311 nurses eligible for the study in total, 90 completed the survey. The population consisted of COVID-designated unit nurses (n = 48, 53.33%) and non-COVID unit nurses (n = 42, 46.67%). Analysis between COVID-designated and non-COVID units revealed significantly lower mean compassion scores and significantly higher burnout and stress scores among those working within COVID-designated units. Despite higher levels of burnout and stress and lower levels of compassion, nurses identified protective factors that improved coping and described challenges they encountered. Palliative care clinicians used insights to design interventions to mitigate identified challenges and stressors.