Lessons from the frontline: The impact of redeployment during Covid-19 on nurse well-being, engagement and retention

October 2020 – March 2022


This is an 18 month programme of research funded by NIHR Health Service and Delivery Research as part of the Covid Recovery Programme https://www.fundingawards.nihr.ac.uk/award/NIHR132041


During the Covid-19 crisis staff redeployment has been extensive and varied. Some staff have been redeployed into high risk areas from their relatively safe ‘home’ wards while others have been moved off wards to different duties. Nurses, who are the focus of this research, have dealt with risk and uncertainty, huge changes to their ways of working over short periods of time and the constant worry for themselves and their close networks that they may be transmitters of the disease.

The emotional impacts of working through Covid-19 are only beginning to be understood but the longer-term consequences of this crisis are unknown.

Research Plan

This research will seek to understand the impact of redeployment during Covid-19 on nurse well-being, engagement and retention.  We are working with three NHS hospital Trusts (Bradford Teaching Hospitals, The Royal London and Oxford University Hospitals) to carry out two work packages:

  • WP1 (months 3-12): To understand how the process of redeploying nursing staff was managed prior to and during the Covid-19 crisis. This will involve interviews with 30 senior staff across the three Trusts who were responsible for decision-making about redeployment and the provision of support therein.  Focus groups with 4-5 senior nurses in each Trust will also be held to explore their beliefs and attitudes on the ethical dimensions of decision-making.
  • WP2 (months 2-16): To understand the emotional and performance challenges for redeployed nurses and how they coped during the Covid-19 crisis. This will involve carrying out surveys and interviews with a total of 45 frontline nurses across 3 points in time.

The research has received Ethical (Ref: Business, Environment and Social Sciences Faculty Research Ethics Committee  AREA20-041, 3.12.20 v1) and HRA (ref: 290616) approvals.

Study oversight:  A Scientific Steering Committee comprising independent experts in a range of disciplines ensures the integrity of the study throughout.  A Programme management Group comprising HR, senior nursing and BAME network staff across the 3 sites, as well as research staff from the Bradford Institute for Health Research and the Universities of Bradford, Leeds and Oxford, guide the research process.  We are also guided by a Staff Advisory Group comprising nursing staff with experience of redeployment during COVID-19 and a group of patients who experienced a hospital admission during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK.

Planned key outputs (targeting several audiences): A short handbook/set of guidelines on managing redeployment with a specific focus on how to do this in a crisis situation. At least one short article for Nursing Times and a presentation at the RCN conference.  A short training video targeting those tasked with managing redeployment in the NHS (although beyond scope of study).  Academic journal articles and a presentation at the UK HSR conference. If in this study, patients are found to have a significant role in supporting redeployed staff, a method of reporting to the general public will be identified.

Further information

Contact: Jenni Murray (Programme Manager) E:jenni.murray@bthft.nhs.uk

Lead: Professor Rebecca Lawton, Director, NIHR Yorkshire and Humber Patient Safety Translational Research Centre