Group for Experimental Methods in Humanistic Research
at Columbia University

Frontline Nurses

  • Alex Gil
  • Mary Marshall Clark
  • Jennifer Dohrn
  • Wilmot James
  • Susan Michaels-Strasser
  • Annette Mwansa Nkowane
  • Margaret Loma Phiri
  • Victoria Rosner
  • Kurt Holuba
  • Mina Shah
  • Hannah Bender
  • Jeremy Orloff

Frontline Nurses: Leaders in Pandemic Response formed in 2018 to study the role of nurses and midwives as change agents in prevention, detection, and response to pandemic infectious disease outbreaks. It is widely acknowledged that nurses are crucial to combatting pandemics, but nurses are generally excluded when municipal, state, and international policymakers gather to set protocols and priorities for pandemic response. This is a dangerous and consequential omission.

Nurses comprise 70% of the global health workforce, and during infectious disease outbreaks they deliver the majority of treatment, creating and supporting hygienic standards, devising and implementing protocols for infection control, building resilient teams, and working with communities on safety measures. Successful containment of epidemic outbreaks requires local knowledge and familiarity with how people live, and nurses and midwives have the trust of the communities they serve, together with a powerful ethical commitment to their work, despite the danger and sacrifice it demands.

This project also attempts to establish a baseline for comparative oral histories. By assembling and studying interviews from two similar events, the project tries to better understand differences and similarities in the lived experiences and knowledge formation of health workers in moments of a public health crisis.