The Heroism of our Frontline Workers

Dr Rachel Sumner

This blog post originally appeared on

The world is in lockdown. Nearly a third of the planet’s population are shuttered away in their homes in order to minimise the spread of Covid-19. Some love it. Some hate it. One thing we all know, however, is that we’ve never quite experienced anything like it. Some are taking to it well, continuing to make the most of a bad situation. Others, however, are struggling for a variety of reasons. It may be down to personality type (I myself am an introvert, and have found transition to lockdown relatively easy), or maybe down to the ease with which daily life can be shrunk back to be managed well within the confines of the home, or maybe a combination of the two.

My own observations of the lockdown have brought many mixtures of horror, joy, sorrow, and absolute pride. We are trapped inside our own 24 hour news cycle, and the heroes of the day are partly the usual suspects (the heroes every day – our doctors, nurses, and healthcare workers); and a good portion are somewhat unlikely heroes (supermarket workers, postal service personnel, delivery drivers, and teachers). The observation of this dichotomy of frontline hero is what started my conversations with Dr Elaine Kinsella of the University of Limerick, who is an expert in the psychology of heroism and leadership.

So after a bit of back and forth, we started forming an idea of a project. We wanted to understand more about these heroes, and how they manage to get through this crisis. Whether they’re people that in some regards might have expected to be frontline heroes in a pandemic, or whether they are those that have been plunged forward into the role of community hero without any preparation, we were curious to know what helps them to keep going in such extraordinary times.

The CV19Heroes project is now up and running, and we want to hear from all frontline workers in the UK and Ireland. We are particularly interested to see if there are differences between the two countries in terms of how these frontline workers get on during the crisis, due to the marked differences in policy in both timing and type of anti-Covid strategy. Most of all we are interested to see if there are any particular personal attributes that help to keep people going, or if there are any workplace characteristics that support enhanced resilience. We are hoping to be able to learn from the current crisis so that if and when the next time something like this comes around, we will be prepared and can support these heroes as they fight for our lives.

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