DOI: 10.1093/ageing/afad246.109 ISSN: 0002-0729

1963 `Three sides to every story'- Living the patient, carer and staff experience of COVID

S Ramsey, H Hurst, M Briggs, L Wentworth
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Aging
  • General Medicine



When COVID-19 first entered our world in March 2020 and the country went into lock down, the NHS braced itself for one of its biggest challenges of this century. Older, frail patients were in the highest risk group, with those in care homes not only at higher risk of death, but higher risk of contracting COVID-19, often suffering more psychological disturbances (Hewitt et al., 2020; Numbers & Brodaty, 2021). This study was conceived by two nurse researchers working throughout the pandemic on a COVID ward for predominantly older people, aiming to capture the experiences of patients, families/carers and staff members.


Phenomenology was the most appropriate methodology to provide an in-depth lived experience perspective. Full ethical approval was obtained and participants were sampled purposively. In-depth unstructured interviews were conducted and transcribed in full before being analysed hermeneutically using the four steps outlined by Fleming et al. (2003).


30 participants were recruited (10 patients, 10 relatives, including several bereaved and 10 staff members). Whilst experience varied between and within groups, core themes emerged:

1. Communication difficulties were poignantly expressed, with staff acting as intermediaries between patients and their family members who were kept apart through visiting restrictions, whilst managing clinical care and their own emotional responses.

2. Challenges of care were experienced by all groups, with anxiety around contagion conflicting with feelings of guilt and long-term psychological impact described by staff. 3. Collective experiences of grief and loss were described as participants grappled with coming to terms with encountering death and dying on an unprecedented scale and under such extraordinary conditions.


This study adds to the growing evidence base around experience of the COVID pandemic, adding insight into the triangulated experience of those affected and highlighting the profound effect on patients, relatives and staff.

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