The Emotional Impact of Registered Nurses in Virginia and Maryland During the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Pandemic in Early 2020: A Qualitative Study


Franklin University Dissertation Excellence Award - Nominee (Spring 2023)

Date of Award

Spring 2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Healthcare Administration (DHA)

Committee Chair

David Meckstroth

Committee Member

Karen Lankisch

Committee Member

Jesse Florang


The World Health Organization (2022) declared the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in early 2020. The disease was more contagious than previous coronavirus diseases (Davies et al., 2021) and spread rapidly in humans (World Health Organization, 2022). Health care personnel acted as first responders. Registered nurses were only a group of health care workers that experienced challenges associated with a lack of medical resources and state actions on pandemic response. Literature on American nurses during the COVID-19 pandemic described a shortage of nurses (Xu et al., 2020; Andel et al., 2022), turnover rates (Butler et al., 2021), attitudes toward COVID-19 safety and protection strategies (Huffman et al., 2022; Lyman et al., 2022), attitudes toward poor mental health (Kim et al., 2021; Van Wert et al., 2022; Burstyn & Holt, 2022), moral distress (Lake et al., 2022), fatigue, insomnia and sleep quality (Pignatiello et al., 2022; Kim-Godwin et al., 2021), and traumatic stress (Hernandez et al., 2021). This exploratory study examined how registered nurses in Virginia and Maryland coped with the emotional impact from the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 to manage their emotional health and well-being. Fifteen registered nurses participated in 30 to 60 minutes interviews where they answered semi-structured questions. Results showed an in-depth look at the emotional impact of the COVID-19 pandemic by identifying data collected in four themes (employer, state action on the COVID-19 pandemic, emotions, and support systems) and five sub-themes (health care system, pandemic response, key lessons, coping mechanisms, and key advice). Based on the data collected, this author drafted recommendations to leaders and practitioners and direction for future research.