Healthcare workers’ experiences in caring for critically ill COVID-19 patients at a tertiary hospital in Malawi

Beatrice Gundo1*, Joyce Beyamu1, Alice Singo2, Deliwe Chipeta4, Rodwell Gundo3, Abigail Kazembe3

  1. Kamuzu Central Hospital, Lilongwe, Malawi
  2. RMIT University, Australia
  3. Kamuzu University of Health Sciences
  4. Malawi Ministry of Health, COVID-19 Secretariat, Lilongwe, Malawi

*Corresponding Authors: Beatrice Gundo; E-mail:


The coronavirus pandemic overwhelmed the healthcare landscape, placing a strain on healthcare workers worldwide. In addition to directly causing the deaths of people, the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted critical health services in developing countries. The study aimed to explore the experiences of healthcare workers who cared for critically ill COVID-19 patients at a tertiary hospital in Malawi.
A qualitative descriptive design was used. Data were gathered through in-depth interviews with doctors, clinical officers, nurses, and allied staff (n=25) who were involved in the care of critically ill COVID-19 patients at the hospital’s COVID-19 treatment centres during the first and second waves of the pandemic in Malawi. The interviews were conducted in English, audiotaped, and later transcribed verbatim. Conventional content analysis was used to analyse the data following the steps proposed by Hsieh and Shannon1.
The overall experience of the health workers was negative. However, delivering care to critically ill COVID-19 patients was associated with positive and negative experiences. The positive experience was a result of teamwork among staff and support from hospital authorities and the community. Negative experiences, on the other hand, were attributed to a lack of knowledge and skills in managing critically ill COVID-19 patients, a lack of resources, and abuse by some patients and members of the community. Furthermore, there was fear of contracting the virus from patients and fellow health workers while providing care.
The findings point to the need for adequate preparedness within the health sector to support and protect the healthcare workers and individuals they look after. There is a need for disease awareness strategies for health workers and the general public for future pandemics.

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