How to improve nursing care

Neuruppin/Magdeburg, 01 February 2022

Representatives from health and social sectors and organisations collaborate with nursing facility employees in the government-sponsored project CoronaCare to develop recommendations on how to improve nursing care under pandemic conditions.

Prof. Dr. Christine Holmberg heads the Institute of Social Medicine and Epidemiology at the Brandenburg Medical School (MHB). Together with Prof. Dr. Christian Apfelbacher from the Institute of Social Medicine and Health Economics /Magdeburg University Medical Center she conducted the CoronaCare project co-funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) to explore the effects of the pandemic on the social health of the general public and specifically on care givers and care recipients. Findings, so Prof. Apfelbacher, will be discussed in workshops with decision-makers at community and administrative levels and nursing professionals so that experience from everyday life can be helpful in handling the pandemic. Preliminary recommendations for action in care settings in due consideration of conditions and actors on site have been developed and published.

Prof. Holmberg on the concept of Social Health: “The project is based on the anthropological key assumption of humans as social beings. According to this definition, social relations constitute central prerequisites for our humanity. Caring and receiving care are fundamental conditions of human existence.”

Policy measures taken to contain and fight the Corona pandemic rely to a large extent on reducing social interaction. While protecting our physical health, this approach has a severe impact on mental and above all on social health, causing manifold tensions and conflicts in daily life. According to Prof. Apfelbacher, discussions of findings in the CoronaCare workshops revealed that these tensions cannot be resolved and therefore need to be addressed with priority in all containment measures. In the nursing sector in particular, says Prof. Holmberg, conflicts arose between the professional ethics of proper care on the one hand, and the necessary rules for maintaining safe distances to contain the pandemic on the other.

Prof. Apfelbacher reports phone interviews with test persons who described their daily lives during the Corona crisis and the challenges and chances resulting from the new circumstances. They were asked to document their everyday lives in the crisis via diaries or audiovisual media. The aim was to identify strategies applied by individuals and communities in times of Corona to keep up or facilitate significant social relations despite the pandemic.

Dr. Gudrun Silberzahn-Jandt from the Caritas association Rottenburg-Stuttgart underlined the importance and inspiring effect of CoronaCare workshops where first results were discussed and clarified with institutional managers from other regions and researchers and experts from health authorities.

Nursing professionals, so the researchers, have a particular need to address the conflict between a wish to help and provide care, and the “anti-social” measures to contain the pandemic. This also implies the need to admit that solutions can only be more or less appropriate but not indisputably right or wrong. Helpful in this context are close collaboration at community level between health, family and social policy and administrations, and in addition a great degree of creative freedom for individuals to reflect on the ethical aspects of nursing and identify options for action.

The team is working on the data material won from the project to set up further recommendations for communalities, communities and companies.

For policy recommendations see here. For additional information see here.


Prof. Dr. phil. Christine Holmberg, Director, Institute of Social Medicine and Epidemiology, Brandenburg Medical School Theodor Fontane, phone: +49 3381 41-1281, E-Mail:

Prof. Dr. Christian Apfelbacher, Director at the Institute of Social Medicine and Health Economics, Otto von Guericke University of Magdeburg, phone: +49 391 67 24316, E-Mail: