Skip to Main Content Skip to bottom Skip to Chat, Email, Text

University of Phoenix College of Nursing alumna and faculty publish article on lived experiences of intensive care unit nursing during pandemic 


By Sharla Hooper

Article co-authored by Dr. Gloria Littlemouse grounded in Watson theory of Caring Science identified barriers to self-care and potential of coaches to help nurses build resilience

University of Phoenix College of Nursing is pleased to highlight the recent publication by alumna Gloria Littlemouse, Ph.D. in Nursing, MSN, RN, WCSI Scholar, whose dissertation study informed an article, “Lived Experiences of ICU Nurses During COVID-19,” in the journal, The Linacre Quarterly. The article was co-authored by Littlemouse with Patricia Finch Guthrie, Ph.D., RN, faculty and Project Chair, and Margaret Kroposki, Ph.D., RN, associate faculty, both in the Doctor of Nursing Practice Program, College of Nursing.

“The pandemic exposed the frailty of our healthcare infrastructure and this study importantly gives voice to nurses who practiced in the most challenging of circumstances taking care of the sickest, most vulnerable patients,” Littlemouse states. “There is more we can do to support nurses and help build resilience in these challenging healthcare environments, and it’s meaningful that the study has now been published and adopted into our community body of knowledge.”

The article is a qualitative, phenomenological study based on the work of Littlemouse’s dissertation, which describes intensive care unit (ICU) nurses’ lived experiences caring for patients with COVID-19 while trying to engage in self-care and care for their families, in which 11 ICU nurses shared their individual experiences working in a hospital ICU. Watson's theory of Caring Science guided the study to ensure a holistic interpretation of the data. Six themes and fifteen subthemes emerged, which revealed that ICU nurses faced barriers to self-care. The conclusion of the data analysis was that hospital leaders can make Caring Science evident to ICU nurses during crises with trained Caritas coaches and help build resilience among frontline nurses.

Finch Guthrie served as dissertation chair for Littlemouse. “Dr. Littlemouse brought her profound understanding and compassion to her study as she also cared for COVID patients during a very difficult time in nursing,” Finch Guthrie shares. “Her work fully illustrates the pain and suffering of the nurses during that time, especially before the vaccine.”

Littlemouse’s journey is deeply rooted in the Navajo Nation and her Diné ancestry. She undertook her self-education, putting herself through school over the course of four decades, and embracing the nursing profession as a deliberate path centered on healing. Determined to realize her ultimate dream of attaining a doctorate, Littlemouse completed a Master of Science in Nursing in 2011 and then a Ph.D. in Nursing in 2022 at University of Phoenix. Her doctoral dissertation was nominated for the University of Phoenix Dissertation of the Year in 2022 and she continues to present her research at public speaking events, including at an upcoming event at Universidad Santo Tomás in Santiago, Chile.

During her nursing career, 30 years ago, Littlemouse was drawn to the philosophy of Jean Watson, Ph.D., RN, and the Watson Caring Science Institute (WCSI), where she identified a synergy between Diné teachings and the institute's holistic and humanistic approach. “This approach honors the uniqueness and dignity of each individual,” Littlemouse reveals. “It allows me to integrate ancestral wisdom into my practice, weaving together the threads of my heritage and education to contribute meaningfully to the nursing profession and Indigenous representation in academia.” In 2023, Littlemouse and her family were invited to open the annual WCSI Caritas Community Conference with a smudging ceremony which was attended by Watson and honored her contributions with special prayers and blessings.

With over 35 years of experience in adult clinical practice, Littlemouse is now an Assistant Professor at Vanderbilt University School of Nursing where she leads clinical rotations for a new generation of nurses. She aspires to amplify Indigenous representation, and is currently leading a series of talks about Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW).

University of Phoenix College of Nursing accredited programs prepare students for the delivery of quality, compassionate care, and recognizes that flexible and relevant educational programs are essential to prepare students for contemporary nursing practice. Nursing students with the College will encounter teaching and learning strategies that encourage progression as well as program options, learning with faculty that possess an average of 29.4 years of professional experience.

The article by Littlemouse, Finch Guthrie and Kroposki is available here.

About University of Phoenix 

University of Phoenix innovates to help working adults enhance their careers and develop skills in a rapidly changing world. Flexible schedules, relevant courses, interactive learning, skills-mapped curriculum for our bachelor’s and master’s degree programs, and a Career Services for Life® commitment help students more effectively pursue career and personal aspirations while balancing their busy lives. For more information, visit