Left behind or at the front line of COVID-19: A descriptive phenomenological study

Søsserr Lone Smilla Grimshaw-Aagaard*, Inge-Lise Knøfler

*Corresponding author for this work


During the COVID-19 pandemic, nurses in the field examined were required to manage large numbers of patients suffering from COVID-19 in in-patient clinics necessitating relocation of registered nurses (RNs) from other clinics in the department to support the care of those patients. The aim of the study was to explore how RNs attribute meaning to their experiences during the organizational changes caused by the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. This descriptive phenomenological study is based on thematic analysis interviewing 47 RNs who either continued working in in-patient clinics, were relocated to in-patient clinics, or remained in out-patient clinics. The study methods complied with the COREQ. The main finding, ‘Sense-making in a changed reality of nursing’, shows how RNs attribute meaning or not to the organizational changes, and explains how meaning-making in RNs continuing in in-patient clinics reinforced their identity as RNs or, conversely, how feelings of meaninglessness in those relocated to in-patient clinics or remaining in out-patient clinics contributed to identity loss. This article suggests that managers, by paying attention to the narratives of meaning or meaninglessness in nurses during organizational changes, could be instrumental in managing the anger, frustration, and hopelessness arising from experiences of meaninglessness.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNordic Journal of Nursing Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jan 2022


  • meaning-making
  • narrative
  • nursing management
  • qualitative


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