Learning about the most pressing changes 
needed for the nursing workforce, drawing 
on nurses’ experiences through the pandemic

Between 2020 and 2022, researchers spoke to 50 nurses up to four times each. The aim was to capture their experiences of nursing working through the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact on their psychological health. The results comprise a 
unique record of this extraordinary time and offer recommendations for future learning.

Project report

The full research report of the ICON longitudinal qualitative study.

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A quick guide highlighting the findings and recommendations.

Read our conditions for downloading the guide here

The guide

We are happy to provide this free of charge, but would ask you to consider the following conditions for its use:

  • Please do not distribute this to anyone else – if anyone asks for a copy please ask them to obtain it via this website. This will enable us to track downloads and engagement which is crucial for us to measure the impact of our research.

If you use the guidance, or any part of it, we would be grateful if you would please:

  • Acknowledge the authorship team;
  • Send copies of any reports/papers that are produced to Professor Jill Maben (j.maben@surrey.ac.uk or Professor Cath Taylor cath.taylor@surrey.ac.uk)
  • Let us have any comments/suggestions that you feel might improve the guidance so that your experience can be incorporated into subsequent updates.
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An engaging overview of the findings and recommendations.
Click to view


A film sharing the experiences of three nurses.
Click to view

Maben J, Conolly A. Nursing through the most difficult of times. Nursing Times. 2023. In press.

Conolly A, Maben J, Abrams R, Harris R, Kelly D, Kent B, Couper K, Rowland E. ‘There was a pivotal moment’. The dynamics, transitions, adaptations and trajectories of nursing at the front-line in the UK during the COVID-19 pandemic. PLOS ONE. In press.

Maben J, Conolly A. Lessons for structure, workplace planning and responding to emergencies from nurses in the COVID-19 pandemic. In: Williams R, Kemp V, Porter K, Healing T, Drury J. (eds.) Pandemics, major incidents and mental health: the psychosocial and mental health aspects of health emergencies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; in press.

Conolly A, Rowland E, Abrams R, Harris R, Kelly D, Maben J. ‘Pretty cathartic actually’: Reflections on the attempt to reduce re-traumatization of researchers and nurses taking part in a longitudinal interview study. Journal of Advanced Nursing. 2023. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jan.15764

Abrams R, Conolly A, Rowland E, Harris R, Kent B, Kelly D, Couper K, Maben J. Speaking up during the COVID-19 pandemic: nurses’ experiences of organizational disregard and silence. Journal of Advanced Nursing. 2023;79(6): 2189–99. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/jan.15526

Conolly A, Abrams R, Rowland E, Harris R, Couper K, Kelly D, Kent B, Maben J. 2022.“What is the matter with me?” or a “badge of honor”: nurses’ constructions of resilience during Covid-19. Global Qualitative Nursing Research. 2022;9: 23333936221094862. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9073120/

Maben J, Conolly A, Abrams R, Rowland E, Harris R, Kelly D, Kent B, Couper K, The impact of COVID-19 on nurses (ICON) survey research group (2022). ‘You can’t walk through water without getting wet’: UK nurses’ distress and psychological health needs during the Covid-19 pandemic: a longitudinal interview study. International Journal of Nursing Studies. 2022;131:104242. www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0020748922000712

Ball J, Anstee S, Couper K, Maben J, Blake H, Anderson JE, Kelly D, Harris R, Conolly A, full ICON study team. The impact of COVID-19 on nurses (ICON) survey: nurses’ accounts of what would have helped to improve their working lives. Journal of Advanced Nursing. 2023;79(1):343–357. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36177495

Couper K, Murrells T, Sanders J, Anderson JE, Blake H, Kelly D, Kent B, Maben J, Rafferty AM, Taylor RM, Harris R. (2022). The impact of COVID-19 on the wellbeing of the UK nursing and midwifery workforce during the first pandemic wave: a longitudinal survey study. International Journal of Nursing Studies. 2022;127: 104155. 

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