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Publication Date



2021 prov rn or; 2021 prov rn mt; 2021 prov rn poster; oregon; montana; 2019-nCoV; covid-19




Background: Relationships exist between improved patient outcomes and Registered Nurse (RN) caregivers with an earned Bachelor’s degree or higher compared to those with an associate’s or diploma in nursing. However, nurses who are working and attending a bridge program to obtain a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) report high levels of stress which may increase risk for withdrawing from the program or quitting work. Furthermore, providing direct patient care during the COVID-19 pandemic may significantly increase stress among those who are concurrently finishing a nursing advanced degree. Little is known about how front-line caregivers perceive the experience of working at least three days per week during a pandemic such as COVID while also completing a full-time RN-BSN program.

Purpose/aims: To explore the lived experience of final-semester RN-BSN students working at least 0.6 full-time-equivalent in the healthcare setting during a global pandemic. Methods/Approach: A qualitative study using thematic content analysis was conducted to explore perceptions of working and going to school during the COVID-19 pandemic among graduating RN to BSN students working between 0.6-1.0 FTE concurrently during the program. Two weeks prior to graduation from the program, students from one cohort were required to write and submit a reflection with the following prompt, “Tell your story about working and going to school during the COVID-19 pandemic”. Analysis of the narratives was undertaken with automated content and thematic analysis by Leximancer software, an automated textual analysis technology, to identify and characterize emerging themes and concepts described in the narratives. The software produces a visual representation of the frequency of concepts reported in qualitative data, and draws lines to demonstrate how often certain terms are used in conjunction with others. The study received IRB approval from the primary investigator’s institution.

Results: A total of 42 students were part of the cohort and 35 submitted a reflection. All 35 were analyzed by the software with names and identifiers were removed. Based on the qualitative software output and validation of generated themes by two independent nurse scholars, three separate concepts arose: COVID-19, time, and family. Many students reported COVID being a major disruptor to all aspects of life during their experience in the program. For instance one student said, “It is like, sucking the life out of me.”

Conclusion: Participants in the study made distinctions between COVID-19, time and family in written assignments discussing their lived experiences of working and going to school during the pandemic. For our participants, work and social environments may play an important role in stress levels for working RN-BSN students which is intensified in the context of the pandemic.

Implications for Practice: College and healthcare leaders should partner to support the RN to BSN workforce to reduce stress and optimize individual capacity to provide effective care to patients and family. Nurses who are working full-time during the current pandemic should carefully consider the pros and cons to returning to school and create a plan for self-care to enhance success and maintain a worklife balance.



Conference / Event Name

2021 Providence RN Conference


Virtual Conference

COVID in our backyard: The lived experiences of RN to BSN students facing a pandemic

Included in

Nursing Commons