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Rapid nursing redeployment from a specialist ward to a COVID-19 high-dependency setting

08 February 2024
Volume 33 · Issue 3



Redeployment in health care can have a negative impact on the mental wellbeing of staff. Advanced planning and provisions for wellbeing support for health professionals has been recommended following previous pandemics. At the authors' institution nurses were redeployed overnight from a specialist cystic fibrosis ward to a COVID-19 high-dependency unit.


To evaluate nurses' wellbeing following this redeployment during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.


A mixed online survey, consisting of both open and closed questions, based on literature, preliminary results of the Impact of COVID-19 on the Nursing and Midwifery Workforce (ICON) study and staff feedback. This was sent to 28 nurses to explore their feelings and experiences of redeployment to a COVID-19 environment. Purposive sampling was used to select study participants while thematic analysis and descriptive statistics were used to analyse the data.


The survey had an 86% response rate. Using thematic analysis three key themes emerged: redeployment anxiety, lack of organisational preparedness and newfound teamworking. More than half (57%) of respondents expressed anxiety and concern when told of their redeployment; 52% reported that they did not receive adequate support from senior staff and management. However, 74% reported that they felt their nursing was positively influenced by support and teamwork from those in patient-facing roles. Twenty-five percent reported that they were looking for a new job or leaving their current role.


This study examines the effects that redeployment to a COVID-19 environment has had on nurses. It highlights the need for further improvement to ensure redeployed staff are supported to safeguard their mental wellbeing.

COVID-19 has caused significant upheaval to the global population. For many years, an influenza-like pandemic was predicted, with the suggestion that healthcare systems should be prepared, because this would be difficult to contain and would affect millions of individuals (Maunder et al, 2008).

It is widely documented that health professionals have experienced anxiety and distress throughout previous pandemics (Chong et al, 2004; Wu et al, 2009; FitzGerald et al, 2012; Mohammed et al, 2015). It has also been identified that health professionals on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic are at increased risk of stress, burnout, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (Hedderman et al, 2020; Supady et al, 2021).

During previous pandemics health professionals were redeployed to cope with demand. However, experience during the H₁N₁ influenza outbreak highlighted an increased need to improve redeployment strategies because late notice of redeployment was found to negatively affect departments, staff and functioning ability (Considine et al, 2011; O'Sullivan, 2023). Nurses who have experienced redeployment have described it as stressful, leading to feelings of disempowerment, fear, insecurity, anger, depression and betrayal (Blythe et al, 2001). The consequences of redeployment appear to be largely ignored, with the main focus placed on improving operational structures, leaving health professionals feeling unable to accomplish career goals, while long hours in demanding areas has led to exhaustion and increased absenteeism (Blythe et al, 2001; Considine et al, 2011).

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