BACKGROUND: This study focuses on hospital-employed researchers, a relatively new staff group. Their job descriptions vary, which may lead to lack of clarity or preparedness regarding their roles and core tasks during a crisis such as COVID-19.
AIM: The aim of this study was to explore hospital-employed healthcare researchers' experiences of work during the COVID-19 pandemic.
DESIGN: A qualitative design based on Graneheim and Lundman's latent content analysis of two focus groups with researchers in clinical practice was chosen to explore researchers' experiences of work during the COVID-19 pandemic.
METHODS: Fifteen hospital researchers participated in two focus groups, divided into predoctoral and postdoctoral researchers. Focus groups were conducted in May 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, using the voice over IP service, Skype®, due to risk of contagion.
FINDINGS: 'Searching for a new normal during the COVID-19 pandemic' was the main theme during the latent content interpretation, with subthemes of (i) balancing calm and insecurity, (ii) negotiating core tasks and (iii) considering the future.
CONCLUSION: The 15 researchers tried to balance calm and insecurity within work and family, on standby for the hospital's contingency plan, and in their research tasks. This led them to negotiate their core tasks and to reflect on the changes and consequences for their positions as researchers in clinical practice in the future.
SUMMARY STATEMENT: What is already known about this topic? During a major healthcare crisis, normal plans and procedures at hospitals are set aside. Working under unexpected and unsecure conditions may lead to postcrisis reactions. Researchers with nursing and allied health backgrounds, who are the first generation of these researchers at hospitals, do not have fully developed and recognized positions. What this paper adds? Nurse and allied health researchers searched for a new normal in their work during the COVID-19 pandemic. Nurse and allied health researchers tried to balance calm and insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic, due to the imbalance between their research-related tasks and their status on standby for clinical tasks in the hospital contingency plan. Nurse and allied health researchers struggled with identifying and negotiating their core tasks by reconsidering possible changes and consequences for their positions as researchers in clinical practice in the future. The implications of this paper: Nurse and allied health researchers employed in clinical practice were willing to participate on the frontline, monitoring and evaluating major healthcare crises like the COVID-19 pandemic. This could potentially lead to new and important context-sensitive learnings after crisis but only if healthcare leaders and organizations clearly formulate the expectations for the researchers.