Journal Article

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on nursing students’ navigation of their nursing programmes and experiences of resilience : a qualitative study


Introduction. High-quality pre-registration student nurse training and development is integral to developing a sustainable and competent global nursing workforce. Internationally, student nurse recruitment rates have increased since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic; however, attrition rates for student nurses are high. During the pandemic, many student nurses considered leaving the programme due to academic concerns, feeling overwhelmed, and doubting their clinical skills. Little was known about the extent to which nursing education prior to COVID-19 had prepared students for their role in managing the healthcare crisis or the impact on their resilience. Thus, this study aimed to explore how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted on the resilience levels of student nurses across the United Kingdom. Methods. Data were collected as part of a multi-site qualitative study named ‘COV-ED Nurse’ and involved pre-placement surveys, placement diaries, and post-placement interviews with nursing students. Student nurse participants were recruited from across the United Kingdom, from all years of study, and from all four nursing branches: children, adult, mental health, and learning disabilities. Participants were asked to complete a pre-placement survey that collected demographic details and information about their placement expectations. They were also asked to record a weekly audio-visual or written diary to describe their placement experiences, and, on completion of their placements, students were interviewed to explore their experiences of this time. Data were thematically analysed using the Framework Approach. Ethical approvals were obtained. Results. Two hundred and sixteen students took part in the wider study. The current study involved a subset of 59 students’ data. Four main themes were identified: ‘coping with increased levels of acuity’, ‘perceived risks of the pandemic’, ‘resilience when facing uncertainty and isolation’, and ‘the importance of coping mechanisms and support structures.’ Discussion. From this study, we have generated insights that can be applied to nursing research, education, policy, and practice and identified the wide-ranging impact that the COVID-19 pandemic had on student nurses and their abilities to remain resilient in an unstable environment. The value of communication and support networks from a wide range of sources was highlighted as key to navigating many uncertainties. In addition, the extent to which students were able to navigate their personal and professional roles and identities influenced their ability to cope with and continue along their training pathways.

Attached files


Henshall, Catherine
Davey, Zoe
Merriman, Clair
Strumidlo, Laura
Serrant, Laura
Brett, Jo
Watson, Eila
Appleton, Jane V.
Malone, Mary
Bradbury-Jones, Carrie
Bekaert, Sarah
Butcher, Dan
Dawson, Paul
Kelly, Daniel
Mcllfatrick, Sonja
Papiez, Kinga
Rafferty, Anne Marie
Ramluggun, Pras
Ramsay, Mike
Sayer, Lynn
Waite, Marion
Watts, Tessa
Wood, Cate

Oxford Brookes departments

Oxford School of Nursing and Midwifery


Year of publication: 2023
Date of RADAR deposit: 2023-09-06

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

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