The angels and heroes of healthcare: a qualitative study exploring this narrative on critical care nurses during COVID-19

Jessica B. Stokes-Parish, David Barrett, Rosalind Elliott, Deb Massey, Kaye Rolls, Nicki Credland

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractResearchpeer-review


Abstract No. 035


During COVID-19, the use of labels ‘hero’ and ‘angel’ to portray nurses in the media has increased. While often well-intentioned, the use of this label does not depict the skill and expertise of nurses and the nursing profession. Despite the
persistent use of this narrative, critical care nurses have not been given the opportunity to provide their perceptions of the angel/hero narrative and the impact this may have on their practice and working environments. In this study, we explored the perspectives of critical care nurses about the angel/hero narrative and its impact on their clinical practice, safe working enviorments, and
professional development during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A semi-structured qualitative online interview study was conducted with critical care nurses. Digital audio data were transcribed verbatim. Thematic analysis of the transcribed data was performed using Braun and Clark methods. The COREQ guidelines were used to report the study.
23 critical care nurses located in United Kingdom, Australia and North America participated. Four themes were produced: history repeating, gender stereotypes, political pawns and forgotten heroes.
Critical care nurses do not perceive the hero and angel narratives positively. Nurses are concerned about unrealistic expectations, potential safety workplace risks and poor remuneration related to these narratives. Nurses perceived that context and intention were important in the interpretation of these narratives, spoke with pride about their work and called for improved representations of
their role, recognition and work conditions.


ConferenceGold Coast Health and Partners Research Showcase 2022
CityGold Coast
Internet address


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