Critical care nurses perceptions of the angel hero label used to describe their roles and practice during COVID-19

  • Stokes-Parish, J. (Speaker)
  • Debbie Massey (Speaker)
  • Kaye Rolls (Speaker)
  • Rosalind Elliott (Speaker)
  • Nicki Credlands (Speaker)
  • David Barrett (Speaker)

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation


Introduction: COVID-19 pandemic significantly raised the profile and visibility of critical care nurses and nursing. One notable characteristic of the increased profile of nurses is the tendency for the media and public to use terms of reverence such as angel or hero. These labels are undoubtedly bestowed on critical care nurses with good intentions, presumably in an attempt to acknowledge the courage, care and commitment that underpins their role. However, there is concern amongst critical care nurses about the use of these labels because of the negative impacts on the work environment for example, access to adequate personal protective equipment, safe staff ratios and appropriate renumeration. However, the impact of the angel/hero label on critical care nurses’ roles practice and identity is not well understood. An understanding of this is important for critical care nurses in Australia and New Zealand in order for policy makers to understand the effect of this narrative.

Objectives: The objective of this work was to explore critical care nurses’ perceptions about how their role and professional identify has been constructed by the media and public during COVID-19.

Methods: We conducted a descriptive, qualitative study with critical care nurses via digital platforms (e.g. Zoom and Teams). We used semi structured interviews to explore the concepts of the angel and hero, using a series of images from health services and the media to stimulate conversation. Interviews were recorded, transcribed and analysed thematically.

Results: 24 critical care nurses were recruited from four countries. At the time of submission, preliminary themes identified from the analysis were discomfort, diminishing and dismissal.

Conclusion(s): Overall, critical care nurses were uncomfortable with the use of the term’s angels and heroes to describe their work during COVID-19 and felt it did not accurately represent nursing work or nurses.
Period28 Apr 2022
Event titleANZICS/ACCCN Intensive Care Annual Scientific Meeting
Event typeConference
LocationSydney, Australia, New South WalesShow on map
Degree of RecognitionNational