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Student Chioma Nwagbo outside the Helen Glass Centre for Nursing at Fort Garry campus.

Chioma Nwagbo worked at the MCNHR for 16 weeks as part of the centre’s summer internship program.

COVID throws curve for new nurses, student researcher learns

October 14, 2021 — 

Newly graduated nurses are dealing with a higher level of stress and anxiety as they join the workforce in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, a third-year international student in the College of Nursing, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences learned this summer.

Chioma Nwagbo recently worked at the Manitoba Centre for Nursing and Health Research (MCNHR) for 16 weeks as part of the centre’s summer internship program. She worked alongside Dr. April Lussier, research development officer, on a project looking into stress and anxiety among newly graduated nurses entering the workplace full time. The project examined current data as well as pre-COVID data.

“We’re not fully done with the analysis, but I can say that COVID throws a whole new curve,” Nwagbo said. “Even experienced nurses who have been working in the field for years have a lot of stress and anxiety burnout because of COVID. You can just imagine how it is for new nurses.”

Nwagbo said they looked at trends of psychological outcomes over the years and how they are impacted by factors like self-efficacy and resilience. The aim is to advocate for supports for nurses and ways to enhance their psychological wellbeing as they care for patients.

She was engaged in literature reviews, data extraction and statistical analysis from surveys given to nursing graduates in Manitoba and was mentored in scientific writing and oral presentations.

Nwagbo said the project was of particular interest to her, as someone who will soon be entering the workforce.

“In two years, I’m going to be one of these graduate nurses,” she said. “The piece about self-efficacy and resilience was really interesting. Now I know, as a student, I have to actually work on developing this so I don’t suffer later in my career.”

She said she was surprised to learn about some of the experiences new nurses were reporting to the project team.

“Some of it was heartbreaking, especially some stuff about workplace bullying,” she said. “It’s really not good to see as someone who’s going into the field soon.”

Originally from Nigeria, Nwagbo said she has long been interested in a health career, and considered studying medicine and pharmacy before deciding on nursing. Her interest in the research side developed while in her first year of the bachelor of nursing program.

“As a nursing student, we have clinical rotations every term and we’re taking classes continuously, hearing ‘research shows this’ and ‘evidence shows this,’” she said. “Being in hospitals, you only see the clinical aspect of things, but not behind the scenes. So I would wonder how they came up with certain strategies or interventions.”

Nwagbo will continue as a part-time research assistant over this academic year, working on reports and data collection.

Lussier said the stress and anxiety project is ongoing, and that Nwagbo will continue to support it until it is published. She said the work of research assistants like Nwagbo is essential.

“I am sure she will do great things in her career as a nurse,” Lussier said. “It is my pleasure to mentor and support her development as a researcher.”

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