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“Collapsing into darkness”: an exploratory qualitative thematic analysis of the experience of workplace reintegration among nurses with operational stress injuries

Faculty Advisor




nursing, return to work, operational stress injury, post-traumatic stress, mental health

Abstract (summary)

Background: Nurses are engaged in an unpredictable and dynamic work environment where they are exposed to events that may cause or contribute to physical and/or psychological injuries. Operational stress injury (OSI) may lead to an extended time away from work or nurses leaving the profession altogether. A deliberate focus on the workplace reintegration phase of the mental health recovery process may lead to the increased retention of nurses in their profession. Prior to the creation and implementation of potential solutions to address workplace reintegration, it is imperative to explore the experiences and perceptions of nurses affected by OSI. This qualitative study aims to investigate the experiences and perceptions of nurses (N = 7) employed within a Canadian provincial healthcare system who have attempted workplace reintegration after being off of work with an OSI. Methods: Nurses were recruited via social media, unit emails, and word of mouth. Data were collected through recorded semi-structured interviews conducted over videoconferencing. Once transcribed, the data were thematically analyzed using an inductive approach. Results: The resulting themes included (1) heroes to zeros, (2) changing the status quo, (3) connection is key, and (4) post-traumatic growth: advocacy and altruism. Study participants indicated both that nursing culture and a cumulation of events contributed to a need for a leave of absence from work and that a formalized process was desired by nurses to assist in returning to work. Conclusions: The development, implementation, and exploration of innovative policies, procedures, and initiatives to bridge the gap from clinical interventions to workplace reintegration are needed for nurses experiencing OSI. Further research is also needed regarding mental health impacts and appropriate resources to support nurses in their workplace reintegration process after experiencing psychological and/or physical injury.

Publication Information

Jones, C., Juby, B., Spencer, S., Smith-MacDonald, L., O’Greysik, E., Vincent, M., Mooney, C., Bright, K. S., Sevigny, P. R., Burback, L., Greenshaw, A., Carleton, R. N., Savage, R., Hayward, J., Zhang, Y., Cao, B., & Brémault-Phillips, S. (2023). “Collapsing into darkness”: An exploratory qualitative thematic analysis of the experience of workplace reintegration among nurses with operational stress injuries. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 20(17), 6664.


Item Type




Attribution (CC BY)