Aims: To explore the experiences of strategic leads for nurse education as they sought to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Design: We utilised a qualitative interpretative approach to explore education leaders' experiences of leading during the early months of the pandemic.

Methods: Nineteen leaders with significant strategic responsibility for nurse education in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Singapore and the United Kingdom were identified via purposive sampling and agreed to participate. Interviews were held between May and July 2020.

Results: Four overarching themes arose from the analysis: (1) Crisis driven adaptability & flexibility; (2) Responsive, complex and changing communication; (3) Making decisions for student and staff safety; (4) Looking to the future; stronger partnerships.

Conclusion: Internationally, while nursing education leaders faced different problems, they shared a common goal amidst the crisis to remain student-centred. They demonstrated they were able to face major challenges, respond to large scale logistical problems and make decisions under significant and ongoing pressure.

Impact: In responding to the pandemic, nurse leaders shared knowledge and offered mutual support. This bodes well for future collaboration. The move to online learning accelerated an existing trend and it seems likely that this will continue. Given the pressures they experienced over an extended period, the sector may wish to consider how it prepares and supports existing and future leaders.

Cite as

Ion, R., Craswell, A., Hughes, L., Johnston, A., Kilbride, L., Hubbard-Murdoch, N. & Massey, D. 2021, 'International nurse education leaders' experiences of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic: A qualitative study', Journal of Advanced Nursing. https://doi.org/10.1111/jan.14892

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Last updated: 03 September 2022
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