In Service to Others: APRNs as Serving Leaders During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Andrew R. Benson, DNP, MSN, CRNA, FAAN; Jessica S. Peters, DNP, MS, RN, ACNP-BC; Colleen Kennedy, DNP, CNM; Michelle Patch, PhD, MSN, APRN-CNS, ACNS-BC


Online J Issues Nurs. 2022;27(1) 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


The impact of the SARS-CoV-2 virus on delivery of hospital care during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has required effective nursing leadership of large teams of Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs). At a large academic medical center in the mid-Atlantic United States, nurse leaders combined knowledge of the psychological phases of disaster and principles of the Serving Leadership framework to mobilize and lead APRN teams to deliver high-quality care to all patients and provide a safe working environment for healthcare teams. In this article, we discuss exemplars that demonstrate the flexibility and strengths of APRNs in all roles who addressed rapidly evolving needs such as resource allocation and education. The conclusion highlights the value and relevance of APRN skillsets to clinical practice and the opportunity to further capitalize on these strengths during the continuing journey through this COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.


"The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others." – Mahatma Gandhi ( Editors, 2020, pg. 1)

Finding themselves in a global health pandemic for the first time in over 100 years, nurses have been lauded for their courage, compassion, flexibility, and responsiveness. It is critical to reflect on nurses' extraordinary frontline efforts, gain insight into what worked well and lessons learned, and amass guidance to inform future disaster response. Using exemplars from Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs; see Table) at an urban, academic medical center in the United States (U.S.), the purpose of this article is to describe how the Serving Leadership model can provide rapid, role-pivoting support and an effective nursing practice response during a pandemic. We invite readers to consider these illustrative challenges and successes within the context of their own institutions.

In the United States, APRNs provide safe, high-quality, low-cost, evidence-based healthcare for patients, families, and communities. APRNs have earned a graduate nursing degree in a specific APRN role and patient population; attain advanced level licensing and certification; and engage in direct clinical practice with patients and families (National Council of State Boards of Nursing [NCSBN], 2021).