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Despite having previous experience and extensive trauma training, the COVID-19 pandemic presented unprecedented challenges for nurses working in hospital settings. During the pandemic, nurses struggle to care for patients and protect themselves from infection, while navigating ongoing organizational changes. Guided by prior literature on social support and coping, this study explores nurses’ experiences of coping with stress while treating COVID-19 patients during the pandemic. In-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with 14 active staff nurses working in hospitals and one licensed practical nurse (LPN) at a rehabilitation center who treated COVID-19 patients during the pandemic. An inductive thematic analysis was employed to analyze those data, and three overarching themes emerged: (1) nurses’ unique experiences in the [COVID-19] trenches, (2) nobody else understands, and (3) coping with stress together. Practically, this study is heuristic and generates an increased understanding of professional communication during times of healthcare crises, illuminating the need to enhance communication skills for both staff nurses and management. This study also extends our understanding of communal coping in the context of healthcare organizations.


This is an Accepted Manuscript version of the following article, accepted for publication in Health Communication, volume 38, issue 10, in 2023 at It is deposited under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

This scholarship is part of the Chapman University COVID-19 Archives.


Taylor & Francis

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License



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