Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format

Integrated Article

Degree

Master of Science

Program

Nursing

Supervisor

Babenko-Mould, Yolanda

Abstract

New graduate registered nurses are often expected to assume leadership roles and responsibilities quickly upon entering practice. Since the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, new nurses may find their leadership capabilities tested even further as the demands of leadership have been made increasingly complex in the context of an infectious disease outbreak. The purpose of this interpretive descriptive study was to explore new graduate registered nurses’ experiences of engaging in frontline leadership roles in hospital settings during the COVID-19 pandemic. In-depth interviews were conducted with 14 participants across Ontario. Content analysis revealed four main themes: nominated and necessitated into leadership, managing diverse and demanding responsibilities, a spectrum of factors that help or hinder, and reflecting on leadership as an impactful experience. Study findings provide insights into potential educational and organizational strategies to support new nurses in roles of frontline leadership, particularly during periods of crisis.

Summary for Lay Audience

Leadership is an expectation of nurses across all practice settings, including those who are newly graduated. However, new graduates often feel unprepared to take on leadership roles. As frontline nursing leadership roles (frequently called “charge nurse” or “team leader”) are often rotated through staff registered nurses on a shift-by-shift basis in Ontario hospitals, new graduates can be appointed into a position of nursing leadership very quickly upon starting their nursing career. Since the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, new nurses may find their leadership capabilities tested even further in the context of an evolving infectious disease outbreak. The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore new graduate registered nurses’ experiences of engaging in frontline leadership roles in hospital settings during the COVID-19 pandemic. Individual interviews were conducted with a sample of 14 registered nurses who had up to three years of experience and who had taken on a frontline leadership role in a hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic. From these interviews, four main themes were identified. The first theme, nominated and necessitated into leadership, described various circumstances that prompted new graduates to take on roles of frontline leadership. The second theme, managing diverse and demanding responsibilities, highlighted the multiple responsibilities juggled by new graduate nurses in frontline leadership roles. The third theme, a spectrum of factors that help or hinder, outlined a range of factors that influenced new graduates’ experiences as they took on a frontline leadership role. Lastly, the fourth theme, reflecting on leadership as an impactful experience, described the professional and personal impacts stemming from participants’ frontline leadership experiences. Insights gained from this study shed light on the experiences of new graduate nurses in roles of hospital-based frontline leadership, factors they find helpful and unhelpful, and ways in which practice settings and nursing education programs can support them, particularly during times of increased practice setting pressures and uncertainties.

Available for download on Thursday, December 01, 2022

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