The experiences of English National Health Service professional communicators during the Covid-19 pandemic

Anne Gregory, Eleanor Davies, Bill Nichols, Urszula Wolski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article presents the findings of empirical research on the experiences of senior National Health Service communication practitioners in England during the Covid-19 pandemic, viewed through the prism of their emotional responses. Using narrative interviews with 15 senior communicators, the study discovered that contextual factors elicited the strongest emotional reactions, rather than dealing with the health crisis itself. Five common contextual factors were identified: ‘command and control’, working from home, social media, technology, and professional recognition. Linked to these factors were a range of emotions which can be clustered into eight main categories: stress and anxiety, guilt, frustration and anger, inadequacy, isolation, pride, excitement and a growing sense of confidence. The findings lead to a conclusion that internal contextual factors rather than the challenges posed by the progress of the disease itself determined the most significant elements of the experience of these practitioners. The study also identified the sources of personal support for communicators and their own recommendations for policy changes. The study concludes that health communicators were hindered by the environment in which they undertook their duties. Necessary policy changes will assist in ensuring this professional group can perform more optimally during major health crises in the future.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102434
Number of pages10
JournalPublic Relations Review
Issue number1
Early online date14 Feb 2024
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2024

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