Aim: This study seeks to gain a comprehensive understanding of the experiences of frontline nurses who provided direct care for COVID-19 patients. Background: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the demands on healthcare systems have been higher than before. Although previous studies have explored the experiences of frontline nurses, these experiences could vary depending on each country's social, cultural, and historical contexts. Introduction: In the midst of the global pandemic, sharing the experiences of COVID-19 frontline nurses could have implications for both nursing and nursing policies that could be applied to future pandemics. Methods: This descriptive qualitative study comprised 14 South Korean nurses with a minimum of one month of experience working within a COVID-19 department. Individual interviews were conducted on a virtual platform, and a thematic analysis was employed. The consolidated criteria for reporting qualitative studies were used to ensure a detailed reporting of the study. Results: Four themes and 12 subthemes were developed. The themes included: (1) feeling forced into a world of uncertainty; (2) providing unique care for COVID-19 patients; (3) perceiving barriers to providing quality care; and (4) seeking meaning in caring for COVID-19 patients. Discussion: Nurses recognized their unique roles in caring for COVID-19 patients and sought new meanings within their profession. However, the poor work environment exacerbated the physical and emotional burden among the nurses and compromised the provision of quality care. Conclusion: This study highlighted the nursing policy issues that need to be improved to ensure better quality care and a stronger healthcare system. Implications for nursing policy: Governmental action is essential to ensure that nurses can maintain the quality of care they have provided during COVID-19 and any future pandemics.
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© 2022 The Authors. International Nursing Review published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of International Council of Nurses.
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