Experience of Dutch Post-Doctoral Nurses of Leadership and Career Development: A Qualitative Explorative Study

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Wedela de Lange, MSc
Julius Center for Health Sciences and Primary Care, University Medical Center Utrecht, the Netherlands, University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht, Netherlands
Anne Mien Regelink, MSc
1Faculty of Clinical Health Sciences, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands, Utrecht University, Utrecht, the Netherlands, Utrecht, Netherlands
Irina Uitewaal-Poslawsky, PhD
Department of Psychiatry, University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht, Netherlands
Thóra Hafsteinsdóttir, PhD, MSc, BSc
Nursing Science, Julius Center for Health Sciences and Primary Care, Utrecht University and University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht, Netherlands

Purpose: Currently challenges in health care call for leadership to rebuild the nursing workforce and implement new models of care. Therefore, it is highly important to strengthen the research capacity of nursing faculties by investing in leadership and career development of post-doctoral nurses (1,2). However, research on the experiences of post-doctoral nurses is lacking (3). The purpose of this study is to explore Dutch post-doctoral nurses’ experiences with their leadership and career development in research functions.

Methods: A general qualitative design was used, in which the experiences of post-doctoral nurses were explored by conducting open, in-depth interviews (4). The data were analyzed with a thematic analysis approach containing six steps familiarizing with the data, generating initial codes, searching for themes, reviewing themes, defining and naming themes and producing the report (5).

Results: Twelve interviews were conducted with postdoctoral nurses working in research. Participants, eight women and four men, ranging in age from 30 to 65 years, worked in different research functions in the Netherlands. The thematic analysis of the interviews led to five themes: Scientific World; Professional Identity; Balance in Life; Appreciation, Collaboration, and Support; and Career Development and Leadership. Post-doctoral nurses have multiple functions, sometimes with conflicting demands between research and patient care or education. Support, collaboration, appreciation, identifying as a nurse, maintaining balance and leadership behavior are important preconditions for post-doctoral nurses to develop a successful career. On the other hand, the absence of this conditions was hindering post-doctoral nurses in the development of their career.

Conclusion: Post-doctoral nurses experience successful and challenging aspects as described in their career development. They use leadership behavior to balance these aspects in their own way. Leadership behavior was found to be highly important in their career development, in order to become a successful postdoctoral researcher. This study demonstrates that the scientific world can be a tough environment where leadership behavior, support, collaboration, nursing professional identity, and good balance in life is needed. Future research is recommended to gain insight into the actual academic development of nursing science in the Netherlands. The creation and development of more advanced academic functions for postdoctoral nurses in all arenas of nursing, including clinical practice, education and research is strongly recommended.