SARS: caring for patients in Hong Kong


  • Betty Pui Man Chung MN, RN,

  • Thomas Kwok Shing Wong PhD, RN,

  • Esther Suk Bing Suen PhD, RN,

  • Joanne Wai Yee Chung PhD, RN

Betty Pui Man Chung
School of Nursing
The Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Hung Hom, Hong Kong SAR
Telephone: (852) 2766 6757


Aim and objective.  To explore in depth the experiences of nurses' caring for SARS patients in Hong Kong.

Background.  Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) dramatically demonstrates the global havoc that can be wreaked by a newly emerging infectious disease. The current literature either has a predominantly biomedical focus or deals with the psychological impact on healthcare workers. Published studies on the lived experience of nurses caring for SARS patients are currently lacking.

Design.  A phenomenological design.

Methods.  Using methods consistent with Husserl's philosophy, eight Registered Nurses working in three regional hospitals in Hong Kong were invited to participate in sharing their lived experience of caring for SARS patients and data were analysed using Colaizzi's approach.

Results.  The three major themes explicated were: the various emotions experienced in caring for SARS patients, the concept of uncertainty and revisiting the ‘taken for granted’ features of nursing.

Conclusion.  These themes, when taken together, describe the essence of the voyage undertaken by nurses who cared for SARS patients during the outbreak. The findings of this study indicate that extensive and ongoing support is needed to prepare and enable nurses to care for SARS patients during a crisis and make it easier for nurses to deal with the various uncertainties.

Relevance to clinical practice.  The essence of caring for SARS patients is highlighted in this study. The experience of caring for SARS patients prompts nurses to find meaning in their experience(s), and to develop knowledge and attitudes on how best to care for patients and prepare for a new crisis in the future. This paper considers a more in-depth understanding of the lived experience of nurses during the crisis and the relevance of this perspective for education and support of nurses.