Memorialization of Nurses Who Died From COVID-19: They Had Grit

Nurses spent 60% of the time with patients when COVID-19 came. Nurses were sent to war without ammunition and were dodging invisible bullets. Lack of PPE early in the pandemic caused many nurses and other health-care providers to be susceptible to the virus. They gave all they could and unfortunately sacrificed with their lives. Were they sacrificial lambs? No, we will memorialize them for their bravery for they never saw it coming. It could have been me or my colleagues. Nurses Announcements Archive

Updated:   Published

The profession of nursing has traditionally been regarded as the most trusted (Milton, 2018). Nursing continues to be named in the Gallup poll as the most trusted profession as well (Kennedy, Maureen & Shawn, 2017). During the COVID-19 pandemic, nurses rose up to the occasion, stepping in to care for the COVID-19 patients, placing their lives and families on the line, and some ultimately sacrificed with their lives. They never left nor abandoned the patients; many so sick and helpless, but nurses stayed at the bedside despite difficult and challenging times.

This article can be found in our allnurses® Magazine Fall issue.

Download allnurses® Magazine

Themes from Obituaries

Currently, there are no accurate statistics on the exact number of nurses who have died from COVID-19. It could be that the virus is still peaking in some states, although it has been contained in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. It has been my mandate to read the obituaries of at least 200 health-care workers, and each time, know that it could have been me or my colleagues. The age ranges from eighteen to at least 75 years with nationalities from around the world. One young mother had a newborn and left three young kids. Retirements, as well as travel plans, were postponed.

Themes emerged such as:

  • dedication
  • selflessness
  • a higher calling
  • a purpose greater than life
  • a sense of mission
  • never apprehensive
  • putting patients first
  • super-heroes
  • mentors
  • legends
  • optimistic

FACT: ... but above all, they had grit

According to the Farlex Dictionary (2015), grit means true resolve, determination, or strength of character. The Collins Dictionary states that grit is: courage, spirit, resolution, determination, nerve, guts (informal), balls (taboo slang), pluck, backbone, fortitude, toughness, tenacity, perseverance, mettle, doggedness, hardihood.


Nurses looked at the coronavirus in the eye and fought like lions. And, the battle is still raging. For those who succumbed to the virus, they will be memorialized as heroes who had grit. Grit is important in making people persist on difficult tasks (Charlton, 2019). When corona touched down in America, health-care facilities and hospitals operated in a crisis mode. Nurse patient ratios, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) protocols changed and nurses could be fired for abandonment if they refused to take care of COVID-19 patients. Nurses were mandated to work in Intensive Care Units (ICU) even if they were not trained for such high acuity patients. However, nurses were not perturbed, discouraged nor frightened. PPE was in short supply. In the beginning of March, some health institutions only had surgical masks without N95s, some none at all. In desperation nurses wore plastic garbage bags for protection (Bowden, Campanile, Golding, 2020).

Lack of Testing for Nurses

When nurses displayed various symptoms, some went to their hospitals and were denied testing. Some were turned away and told to go to work if symptoms were not severe enough. For those who were severe, they were not provided paid sick time forcing some to return to work before recuperating. The families interviewed stated that healthcare institutions denied that they did not have enough PPE. They also denied that the nurses contracted COVID-19 at their facilities. Unfortunately, once send home, some nurses died alone in their homes or apartments. A travelling nurse in New York city was located five days after succumbing to COVID-19. A couple of nurses wrote their own obituaries. Why is it that professional athletes and politicians have testing available compared to nurses and other Healthcare Personnel (HCP) who are in direct contact with patients? Six months later, PPE is still in short supply and nurses are still dying.


Communities rallied together to bring food and dessert during the pandemic. Nurses were depicted as superheroes; we were the last contact with patients before they died. Children drew pictures and wrote cards with words of encouragement. Our trustworthiness did not waiver and we stood strong and worked together as a team. Nurses sacrificed their lives and that of their families, yet kept doing what they love ... taking care of patients until the end.

Gone but will never will be forgotten.

Read the names of the healthcare professionals who have passed away due to COVID-19 in allnurses Magazine. Click to download it for free.




Bowden, E., Campanile, C., Golding, B (2020). Worker at NYC hospital where nurses wear trash bags as protection dies from coronavirus. New York Post retrieved August 4, 2020. 

Charlton, J. (2019). Angela Duckworth finds grit is not always the best predictor of success in new research. Daily Pennsylvanian 

Grit. (n.d.) Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014. (1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014). Retrieved August 4 2020 from

grit. (n.d.) Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. (2015). Retrieved August 4 2020 from

Kennedy, Maureen & Shawn MA, RN. (2017). It's Time to Earn the Public's Trust. AJN, American Journal of Nursing, 117, 7.

Milton, C. L. (2018). Will Nursing Continue as the Most Trusted Profession? An Ethical Overview. Nursing Science Quarterly, 31(1), 15–16.

Specializes in Critical care, tele, Medical-Surgical.

I'm crying as I type this. I only met Sally and Ben once at a CE class years ago. Please read the article. Her life story is worth knowing.


Husband-and-wife nurses contract COVID-19. She died in the hospital where she worked

...  The longtime nurse will be buried Friday in Victorville, and the hospital where she worked nearly half of her life — and where she died — plans to hold memorial services in her honor...




Specializes in Education, FP, LNC, Forensics, ED, OB.

Thank you, @herring_RN, for posting this. It does break my heart.

So sad, hope the husbands finds comfort in knowing that his wife died doing what she likes best, taking care of her patients. MHRIP.

+ Add a Comment