The Invisible Nurses of COVID-19

Ms Samantha Elrick1, Ms Sarah  Rooke

1Department Of Health, Tasmania, Hobart, Australia


The year 2020 saw a paradigm shift in both our everyday language and our professional discourse, the normalisation of terms like Coronavirus, Covid-19, pandemic, quarantine and social-distancing.  The catchphrase of the year was frontline health worker, who can forget that powerful imagery of nurses in full PPE caring for COVID-19 patients. At the forefront of everyone’s minds were those working in acute healthcare, frontline health workers were heralded as the new superheroes.

All the while, leading from behind the frontline, an invisible cohort of superheroes began to emerge, the public health nurses of COVID-19. The response to this unprecedented global event provided much uncertainty and a trajectory of unfamiliar proportions.

With a history of investment in public health in Australia diminished, the task faced by our public health nurses was enormous and seemingly impossible.  The invisible nurses of COVID-19 became immersed in the public health response, they worked long hours with determination, dedication and drive, stepping up in a time of rapid change.

In the Tasmanian context the invisible nurses of COVID-19, contributed significantly to navigating the state through stormy waters in the early wave of COVID-19, firmly stamping the role of the public health nurse into the psyche of the Tasmanian public.  The increasing demand of the role from the first case, to the NW outbreak and interstate cluster responses, alongside the increased funding, shines light on the role of the public health nurse. Although we remain invisible and unseen – we are still here making the impossible possible.


Sam is the Nurse Manager of the Public Health Emergency Operation Centre in Hobart, she has a broad range of leadership, management and clinical experience both in Tasmania, interstate and overseas.  She has worked in Aboriginal communities in the North of Western Australia and as a clinical nurse educator in Kampala, Uganda.

Sarah is a Clinical Nurse Consultant in the Communicable Disease Prevention Unit, Department of Health, Tasmania.  She has worked as part of the COVID-19 response for Tasmania and has extensive experience working in international public health in the Philippines and Sri Lanka.