The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in significant system strain, requiring rapid redeployment of nurses to intensive care units. Little is known about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and surge models on nurses.


To identify the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on nurses working in intensive care units.


A scoping review was performed. Articles were excluded if they concerned nurses who were not caring for critically ill adult patients with COVID-19, did not describe impact on nurses, or solely examined workload or expansion of pediatric intensive care units.


This search identified 417 unique records, of which 55 met inclusion criteria (37 peer-reviewed and 18 grey literature sources). Within the peer-reviewed literature, 42.7% of participants were identified as intensive care unit nurses, 0.65% as redeployed nurses, and 72.4% as women. The predominant finding was the prevalence of negative psychological impacts on nurses, including stress, distress, anxiety, depression, fear, posttraumatic stress disorder, and burnout. Women and members of ethnic minority groups were at higher risk of experiencing negative consequences. Common qualitative themes included the presence of novel changes, negative impacts, and mitigators of harm during the pandemic.


Nurses working in intensive care units during the COVID-19 pandemic experienced adverse psychological outcomes, with unique stressors and challenges observed among both permanent intensive care unit and redeployed nurses. Further research is required to understand the impact of these outcomes over the full duration of the pandemic, among at-risk groups, and within the context of redeployment roles.

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