Burnout | COVID-19 | Leadership

Keeping Afloat During COVID Surge: How to Lead Your Team

  • Hospitals are overflowing with patients, they are understaffed, and their providers are exhausted.
  • How can they stay afloat during another COVID surge?
  • From my past experiences as a nurse leader during COVID, here are some of the most valuable pieces of advice that I learned!
Morgan Curry, RN/BSN

Morgan Curry, BSN / RN

Intensive Care, Outpatient Surgery, Aesthetics, Education, and Nursing Leadership

August 27, 2021
Simmons University

States across the country are experiencing yet another COVID-19 surge, and hospitals are struggling to maintain smooth operations.  

If you are in a leadership position, it is vital that you do everything in your power to keep your team afloat during these unpredictable, unprecedented, and unwavering times, even if you are barely staying afloat yourself.  

Although I do not have all the answers, I was in a nursing leadership position during one of the first COVID surges, and here are a few things I learned: 

As nursing leaders, amidst the chaos, fear of the unknown, and feeling as if the pandemic will never end, be that support beam for your nurses and your staff.  

Learning to Live with Constant Uncertainty

You have dedicated your professional life to one of service and caring for others. 

I think it is safe to say that there are usually never days on the job that can be considered ‘predictable.’  

However, with yet another COVID surge, this constant level of uncertainty and unpredictability can begin to take a toll not only on you but also on your team.  

Leadership expert, entrepreneur, and author, Bora Kurum, highlights that the ability to live with the uncertainty of tomorrow is at the heart of where today’s decisions can be made.  

As nurses, although it is hard to persevere without fully understanding what the state of tomorrow holds, we must push on and care for our patients and each other. 

It is best to live in the current moment. 

Live in your thought.  

You have the capacity to determine your reality based on your thoughts. You determine how calm or how chaotic your reality and each moment will be. 

Do not let your thoughts of the unknown and the future cause you anxieties because that is all those thoughts are good for.  

Instead, choose to live in the moment, which will allow you to slow down and to listen to those around you. To become more self-aware. 


Online nursing resource, Nursing Times, outlines the necessity of maintaining effective communication during times of crisis; another COVID surge is no different.  

As a leader, your ability to convey transparent communication to your team will empower them to make more informed, level-headed decisions that aren’t clouded by the high stress levels they are experiencing daily.  

However, the road to effective communication is always a two-way street, and you must be actively listening to the concerns, comments, and questions of your nursing team. 

These modalities of crisis communication are vital, especially when there are lives on the line. 

Have you ever noticed how much better the team’s communication is during a code when the seasoned, experienced ICU nurses are there.  

There is no yelling. There is no blaming. They are calm and collected.  

By remaining calm, observant, and communicative, the team functions harmoniously. 

Being Supportive

These times are hard on everyone.  

Although you are in a leadership position, it is okay to need and want to be supported also; your team needs this in return.  

The online nurse blogging community, My American Nurse, lists the top requests from healthcare professionals proceeding the first COVID surge. Check them out: 

  • Hear me—acknowledge my expertise on the frontline. 
  • Protect me—help me reduce the risk of getting myself or my family infected. 
  • Prepare me—provide the training that I need to care for the patients adequately. 
  • Support me—I am human, I have limitations; therefore, be there, and if you can’t, provide the resources that I need to decrease my fear. Be an advocate for your team-if not you, then who else? 
  • Care for me—I am self-isolated from friends and family, care for me. 

The Takeaway

We are drowning in the reality of the unknown, in the chaos around us, in the anxieties of the world.  

As nurses, we are the glue that holds healthcare together, and as nursing leaders, you are the glue that helps to hold the nurses together.  

So, what happens when the glue to the support beam of the entire infrastructure breaks?  

As nursing leaders, amidst the chaos, fear of the unknown, and feeling as if the pandemic will never end, be that support beam for your nurses and your staff.  

We will get through this together!  

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