The experiences and needs of re-entering nurses during the COVID-19 pandemic: A qualitative study

Sofie A Noorland, Trynke Hoekstra, Maarten O Kok

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: During the COVID-19 outbreak in the Netherlands, thousands of former nurses have returned to nursing to support healthcare staff. After a period of absence and with little time to prepare, these former nurses re-entered during a challenging, uncertain and rapidly evolving pandemic. Little is known about the experiences and needs of these re-entering nurses. Objectives: Assessing the needs and experiences of re-entering nurses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Design: Qualitative study using a pragmatist approach within the interpretative paradigm. Settings: This study took place in the following settings within the Dutch healthcare system: Intensive care units, COVID and regular departments within hospitals, nursing home settings, a rehabilitation centre and newly established COVID-19 departments within nursing home settings. Participants: We purposively selected 20 nurses who had re-entered nursing during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic between March 2020 and June 2020 in the Netherlands. The first interview was conducted on the eighth of May 2020. Methods: We conducted 20 semi-structured interviews in Dutch. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and analysed via thematic content analysis in the coding program of MAXQDA2020. This study followed the SRQR and COREQ guidelines. Results: Seven main themes were identified. Clear job description: Participants mentioned that a lack of a clear job description led to lack of clarity about the kind of tasks that re-entering nurses were expected and allowed to perform. Training: the majority of the participants had received none or little training prior to their return. Training content: Re-entering nurses mentioned to wish for an easily accessible mentorship structure and an individualised and practical training program. Positive team dynamic: Re-entering nurses felt supported by a positive team dynamic, which was shaped by the sense of urgency and relevance of their work and helped them deal with stressful experiences. Mental health: Nearly all participants mentioned that re-entering during a pandemic did not lead to impairment of their mental health. mental health support: Most participants mentioned being able to cope with their mental health independently, sharing experiences with family and colleagues Conclusion: The results indicate that a rapid and safe return to nursing during a pandemic could be facilitated by: a clear description of roles and responsibilities; an individualised assessment determining the competences and knowledge disparities of re-entering nurses; practical training focussing on competencies needed during a pandemic; and a collaborative mentorship structure to guide re-entering nurses. Tweetable abstract: In-depth interviews with former nurses who returned to #nursing during the first wave of the #COVID19 #pandemic in the Netherlands.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100043
Pages (from-to)100043
JournalInternational journal of nursing studies advances
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021


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