Brock research examines novice nurses’ experiences during COVID-19 pandemic

Working on the front line as a new nurse at the onset of COVID-19 left a lasting impact on Rosemarie Moretti (BScN ’19).

Now, the Registered Nurse (RN) and Brock University Applied Health Sciences master’s student is analyzing the experiences of other novice nurses who entered the workforce during the pandemic.

While Moretti was taught how to respond in critical care and crisis settings and learned about epidemics as a Brock Nursing student, nothing could have prepared her for the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Being bedside in hospital at the start of the pandemic and being a new nurse, I was surrounded by many senior nurses who initially compared COVID-19 to the SARS outbreak of 2003,” Moretti says. “During the first couple of waves, I felt like there were only a handful of us who hadn’t experienced anything like this before.”

Needing a change from working on a ‘COVID floor’ when entire hospitals were locked down, Moretti took on a new role at Niagara Region Public Health’s vaccination clinics. There, she met hundreds of nurses and discovered that many of them had graduated in or after 2019.

Two women sit at a table talking.

Rosemarie Moretti consults with her supervisor, Associate Professor of Nursing Sheila O’Keefe-McCarthy, on recruitment strategies to use for her master’s thesis study.

“It was only when I changed jobs that I started to realize just how many of us from similar cohorts shared common experiences that warranted further investigation,” Moretti says.

While listening to her new colleagues’ stories, she realized many of them had also come from hospitals or acute care settings. Moretti noticed similar narratives were being shared by Ontario-based nurse advocates in the news and on social media.

“When I looked into it, there wasn’t a lot of information that discussed the more novice nurses,” Moretti says. “I found a gap in the literature and realized our voices were missing from larger discussions.”

While Moretti was originally pursuing another topic of study for her master’s thesis, the COVID-19 pandemic prevented her from moving forward with data collection. Building on her experience and passion for nursing advocacy, she reset her goals and re-started the entire research process.

“COVID-19 was a barrier to several students’ academic journey,” says Associate Professor of Nursing Sheila O’Keefe-McCarthy. “Rosemarie found a way to use her own pandemic experiences to propel her forward and in doing so, has met with novice nurses like herself and created a safe space for them to share their own journeys as well.”

In her new study, Moretti looks at the lived experiences of novice nurses who graduated in 2019 or later and worked in Ontario during the COVID-19 pandemic. Participants must hold an active licence in Ontario from the College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO) but can be actively working outside of the province.

Moretti hopes her research will provide a platform to give novice nurses an important voice about their lived experiences and influence future training initiatives.

“As an undergraduate nursing student, we were taught about adversity and how caring is an art form,” Moretti says. “That’s what’s really been keeping me going throughout this journey. I wouldn’t give up on a patient and so I’m not going to give up on this either.”

For more information about the study, please email

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