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.