Publication date: Oct 01, 2023
As each country individually manages the COVID-19 pandemic, mass vaccination campaigns have varied considerably. Implementation campaigns often depend on nurses; however, nurses are not consistently involved in higher-level planning, prioritization, and policy development decisions. This study aimed to examine the involvement and engagement of nurses in country-level COVID-19 mass vaccination policies and practices in 10 Office of Economic Cooperation and Development countries, identify barriers and factors to enhancing the engagement of nurses in the evidence-informed mass vaccination decision-making processes, and suggest areas for improvement. A qualitative study using in-depth semi-structured interviews was conducted as a follow-up study to an International Council of Nurses survey. The study sample included a purposeful sample of 14 country-representative nurses from 10 Office of Economic Cooperation and Development countries. Interview questions focused on each country’s overall COVID-19 vaccination campaign and policies, participants’ perspectives regarding the involvement of nurses in the planning, design, and implementation of the mass vaccination program observed outcomes, and the impact of nursing on the outcomes. Interviews were recorded, transcribed, translated where necessary, coded, and thematically analyzed. Main areas of involvement identified by participants were membership in advising and decision-making committees, operationalization planning, implementation and coordination processes, education efforts, and nurses’ interactions with the media. Seven themes emerged among perceived facilitators of nursing involvement: existing systems and infrastructure, nursing profession-related skills and competencies, communication and messaging, multidisciplinary and interagency work, recognition and visibility of nurses and nursing, trust in nurses, and nursing pride. Meanwhile, perceived barriers included lack of a voice, recognition and appreciation for nursing, workforce-related challenges, decentralization of responsibility and authority, supply and access issues, downstream effects of the pandemic, and non-COVID-related nursing barriers. Three main themes emerged among suggestions made by participants for improved involvement of nursing: culture change within nursing and healthcare, opportunities and momentum to build upon, and perceptions of responsible parties. Nurses play a central role in providing health services but are inconsistently included in the policy, planning, and decision-making processes. Findings highlighted the critical importance of nursing leadership roles and expanded roles for nurses. Nursing should be represented by high-level leaders as part of multidisciplinary decision-making groups, educational initiatives for involvement in health policy should be implemented in nursing schools and continuing education, and advocacy and inclusion efforts should utilize bottom-up and top-down approaches concurrently.