UK nurses' and midwives' experiences of healthful leadership practices during the COVID-19 pandemic: A rapid realist review

Caroline Dickson, Caitlin Davies, Brendan McCormack, Liz Westcott, Joy Merrell, Sonja J McIlfatrick, Jan Dewing

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
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We aim to explore healthful leadership practices in nursing and midwifery evident within the COVID-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom, the contextual facilitators, barriers and outcomes.

Globally, the health and care sectors are under pressure and despite nurses and other professionals, demonstrating resilience and resourcefulness in the COVID-19 pandemic; this has negatively impacted on their health and wellbeing and on patient care.

Two searches were conducted in July 2021 and December 2021. Inclusion/exclusion criteria were identified to refine the search, including papers written since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020. A total of 38 papers were included principally from the United States and United Kingdom. Ten were research papers; the others were commentaries, opinion pieces and editorials. MS Teams literature repository was created. A unique critical appraisal tool was devised to capture contexts, mechanisms and outcomes whilst reflecting more standardized tools, that is, the Critical Appraisal Skills Programme and the Authority, Accuracy, Coverage, Objectivity and Date tool for reviewing grey literature to refine the search further.

Key issues
Six tentative theories of healthful leadership emerged from the literature around leadership strategies, which are relational, being visible and present; being open and engaging; caring for self and others; embodying values; being prepared and preparing others; and using available information and support. Contextual factors that enable healthful leadership practices are in the main, created by leaders' values, attributes and style. The literature suggests that leaders who embody values of compassion, empathy, courage and authenticity create conditions for positive and healthful relations between leaders and others. Nurse and midwives' voices are however absent from the literature in this review.

Current available literature would suggest healthful leadership practices are not prioritized by nurse leaders. Perspectives of nurses' and midwives' about the impact of such practices on their wellbeing is also missing. Tentative theories are offered as a means of identifying healthful leadership strategies, the context that enable these and potential outcomes for nurses and midwives. These will be explored in phase two of this study.

Implications for Nursing Management
Nurse leaders must be adequately prepared to create working environments that support nurses' and midwives' wellbeing, so that they may be able to provide high-quality care. Ensuring a supportive organizational culture, which embodies the values of healthfulness, may help to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on nurses' and midwives' wellbeing in the immediate aftermath and going forward.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3942-3957
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Nursing Management
Issue number8
Early online date5 Sept 2022
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 30 Nov 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work has been possible due to funding from the RCN Foundation
Project advisor: Prof Elizabeth Rosser. Deputy dean for education and professional practice Bournemouth University, England. Director, Sigma's International Board of Directors. Acknowledgements to Elizabeth Rosser who is Professor of Nursing.
Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors. Journal of Nursing Management published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • Leadership and Management
  • nursing leadership
  • workforce
  • preparation
  • Pregnancy
  • Leadership
  • COVID-19/epidemiology
  • Pandemics
  • Humans
  • Nurses
  • Midwifery
  • Female


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