Call for Papers — Special Issue in ‘Heroism Science’ on Healthcare Heroes

Special Issue in Heroism Science

EDITORS:   Dr. Elaine L. Kinsella (University of Limerick) and Dr. Rachel Sumner (Cardiff Metropolitan University)

Healthcare workers— doctors, nurses, technicians, other health care professionals, and hospital support staff—around the world have faced the significant challenge of providing care for patients with COVID-19, while often poorly prepared and ill-equipped. These workers have risked their own lives to save the lives of others, often at great cost to them and their families. Perhaps not surprisingly, healthcare workers around the world have been described as heroes and hashtags such as #frontlineheroes and #healthcareheroes have been used widely on social media.

During the COVID-19 pandemic and previous health crises, the media have repeatedly praised healthcare workers for their ‘heroic’ work. Yet, many healthcare workers have suffered (and continue to suffer) psychological and physical ill-effects as a result of their occupational efforts and complexities, along with challenges associated with tensions between work and home-life. Indeed, research indicates that healthcare workers are experiencing high rates of burnout, posttraumatic stress syndrome, compassion fatigue and moral injury, along with poor physical and psychological health.

Recent polling would suggest, across many countries, healthcare workers are considering leaving their jobs and starting new careers. Meanwhile, in the developed world at least, government and public expectations for high quality and expedient healthcare delivery are increasing, and many national healthcare providers are under scrutiny to reach targets despite widespread workforce absenteeism, attrition, mismanagement and underfunding.

The use of the hero label during healthcare crises raises questions about how we, as members of the general public, need and seek out heroic figures in our lives, particularly during times of physical or psychological threat. The experience of being labelled hero in the pandemic has also had repercussions for those hailed as the heroes of Covid-19, leading to questions of what impact the receipt of the label can have on health, wellbeing, and motivation. Furthermore, this raises questions about how describing other workers (e.g., first responders, rescue workers, firefighters, members of the armed forces) as heroes could change both their experience of the role, and others’ expectations of their role.

This special issue of the journal Heroism Science aims to offer academics, researchers, policy makers, media personnel and members of the general public new perspectives and empirical insights into the relationships between healthcare and heroism with regard to our expectations of healthcare workers and healthcare systems, our interactions with health workers, and the experiences of healthcare workers across cultures.

In this special issue, we call on researchers, academics and practitioners across all disciplines to:

  • Interrogate the links between healthcare and heroism, historically and in the modern era
  • Offer new insights into the use of the hero label during the Covid-19 pandemic and other healthcare crises
  • Explore what the label hero conveys to healthcare workers in terms of their own and others’ expectations about their capabilities and capacity to protect and save others
  • Offer novel insights into how internalisations of the ‘hero’ persona might impact on healthcare workers’ behaviour, thoughts, and emotions, as well as on their own health and wellbeing
  • Consider how implicit assumptions and broader narratives of healthcare workers as heroes influence broader expectations of healthcare workers and healthcare organisations
  • Offer new knowledge relating to both the status quo and the future of healthcare and the extent that broader societal narratives might need to change or adapt to promote a better vision of healthcare
  • Consider the extent that seeing healthcare workers as heroes has benefitted or negatively impacted others such as service users and members of the general public
  • Explore the impact of hero label on other types of workers (e.g., first responders, rescue workers, firefighters, members of the armed forces) and draw broader meaning for healthcare workers and the use of the hero label

We welcome original research, theoretical contributions, review and opinion articles relevant to this special issue. For informal inquiries and abstract submissions, please email

Deadline for Abstracts: July 1st 2022

Deadline for Submissions: September 1st 2022

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