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Uncovering the Experience: Return to Work of Nurses After Parental Leave

Published:November 18, 2022DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jen.2022.10.005

      Abstract

      Introduction

      To understand the experiences of emergency nurses who have returned to work after parental leave, specifically relating to the return to work transition, work-life balance, work engagement, and opportunities to continue human milk expression.

      Methods

      Nurses (N = 19) were recruited from 5 emergency departments within 1 hospital system in the United States Midwest. Nurses (n = 11) were eligible to participate in a one-on-one interview if they had returned from parental leave within 6 months of the interview date. Nurses (n = 8) were eligible to participate in a focus group if they had returned from parental leave within 2 years of the interview date. Interviews were structured and data collection concluded when researchers believed data saturation was reached. Interviews were audio recorded and transcribed verbatim. Data were analyzed using Braun and Clarke’s qualitative thematic analysis 6-phase framework.

      Results

      Three major themes from the data were identified: (1) work engagement, (2) lactation, and (3) childcare. Work engagement was broken down into the subthemes: lack of communication, perceived engagement expectations, and actual engagement. Lactation was broken down into the subthemes: the act of pumping, lactation breaks, and lactation rooms. The coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic impact on return-to-work is described under each major theme.

      Discussion

      Our findings provide insight into the unique challenges and experiences of nurses navigating parental leave and return-to-work in the emergency department. Strategies such as provision of managerial check-ins, return to work reorientation, lactation break coverage, enhanced supplementary lactation support, and leadership-provided accommodation may lighten the burden of these challenges and improve the returning nurse’s job satisfaction.

      Key words

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      Biography

      Emily K. Hill is Lead Clinical Research Nurse Coordinator, Clinical Research Unit, Northwestern Medicine, Chicago, IL. ORCID identifier: http://orcid.org/0000-0001-7291-2461.

      Biography

      Olivia M. Bimbi is a Clinical Nurse, Emergency Department, Northwestern Medicine; and a PhD student, University of Illinois Chicago, Chicago, IL. ORCID identifier: http://orcid.org/0000-0001-7568-3385.

      Biography

      Natasha Crooks is an Assistant Professor, Department of Human Development Nursing Science, College of Nursing, University of Illinois Chicago, Chicago, IL. ORCID identifier: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-0178-2844.

      Biography

      Ryan Brown is a Clinical Nurse, Emergency Department, Northwestern Medicine, Chicago, IL; and Member, Illinois ENA.

      Biography

      Angela B. Maeder is an Assistant Clinical Professor, Department of Human Development Nursing Science, College of Nursing, University of Illinois Chicago, Chicago, IL; and a Clinical Nurse, Labor and Delivery, Northwestern Medicine, Chicago, IL. ORCID identifier: http://orcid.org/0000-0002-0335-714X.