A Large Scale of Nurses Participated in Beating down COVID-19 in China: The Physical and Psychological Distress


The outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) posed an unprecedented threat to health care providers (HCPs) in Wuhan, China, especially for nurses who were frequently exposed to infected or suspected patients. Limited information was available about the working experience of nurses in fighting against the pandemic. To learn the physical and psychological responses of nurses during the pandemic and explore the potential determinants, we conducted a large-scale survey in Wuhan. This multicenter cross-sectional study enrolled 5521 nurses who worked in designated hospitals, mobile cabins, or shelters during the pandemic. A structured online questionnaire was distributed to assess the physical discomforts, emotional distress and cognitive reactions of nurses at work, and the log-binomial regression analysis was performed to explore potential determinants. A considerable proportion of nurses had symptoms of physical discomforts [3677 (66.6%)] and emotional distress [4721 (85.5%)]. Nurses who were directly involved in the care of patients (i.e., care for severe patients: RR, 2.35; 95% CI, 1.95–2.84), with irregular work schedules (RR, 2.36; 95% CI, 1.95–2.87), and working overtime (RR, 1.34; 95% CI, 1.08–1.65) were at a higher risk for physical discomforts. Nurses who were directly involved in the care of patients (i.e., care for severe patients: RR, 1.78; 95% CI, 1.40–2.29), with irregular work schedules (RR, 3.39; 95% CI, 2.43–4.73), and working overtime (RR, 1.51; 95% CI, 1.12–2.04) were at a higher risk for emotional distress. Therefore, formulating reasonable work schedules and improving workforce systems are necessary to alleviate the physical and emotional distress of nurses during the pandemic.


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We would like to express our sincere gratitude to nurses for participating in this study, and to express our deepest respect for their selfless contributions during the pandemic. During the Year of Nurse and Midwife 2020, the world has witnessed the courage and achievement of all nursing staff in fighting against the pandemic, they deserve all the honor and glory. We also acknowledge A-dan FU, Hane YUE, Hui WANG, Hui-fen WANG, Li HAN, Li WANG, Shan-ling LI, Xin-wen LIU, Yi-lan LIU, Yong-fang XIONG and the ten affiliated hospitals of Tongji Medical College, Huazhong University of Science and Technology for permitting and supporting the conduction of the study and for providing opportunities for advertising the survey among the staff.

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Correspondence to Jie Li or Jing Mao.

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All authors declare no competing interest exists.

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Wang, Q., Fan, Jy., Zhao, Hm. et al. A Large Scale of Nurses Participated in Beating down COVID-19 in China: The Physical and Psychological Distress. CURR MED SCI 41, 31–38 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11596-021-2314-5

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Key words

  • coronavirus disease 2019
  • pandemic
  • nurses
  • distress