Workplace cognitive failure among nurses during the COVID-19 pandemic

Document Type


Publication Date




Publication Title

International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health


Numerous studies provide evidence of the physical and emotional strain experienced by nurses during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, little is known regarding the impact of this occupational strain on nurses’ cognitive function at work. The aim of this study was to identify factors associated with workplace cognitive failure in a sample of U.S. nurses during the COVID-19 pandemic. An online questionnaire was administered in May 2020 to Michigan nurses statewide via three nursing organizations (n = 695 respondents). Path analysis was conducted to test the parallel effects of frequency of contact with COVID patients and personal protective equipment (PPE) supply on workplace cognitive failure scores. Mediation effects of stress, sleep quality, secondary trauma, and work-related exhaustion were examined for each exposure. Results revealed significant indirect effects of all mediators except sleep quality of contact with COVID patients (cumulative indirect effect = 1.30, z = 6.33, p < 0.001) and PPE (cumulative indirect effect = −2.10, z = −5.22, p < 0.001) on cognitive failure. However, 58% of the PPE effect was direct. To reduce the risk of cognitive failure, healthcare organizations need to provide nurses with protective equipment and work environments that allow nurses to strengthen their resilience to extreme working conditions.

Link to Published Version