Redeployment may be needed to staff areas of high need or respond to a new health service design or need, such as COVID-19 screening or vaccination. The move might be short-term or permanent and may lead to feelings of increased stress, trauma and moral injury. 1
They may also be needed due to the individual vulnerabilities of the health worker, leading to feelings of guilt people are not able to work alongside their peers in a time of need and contribute to the team effort.1
How any transition to a new environment is managed greatly influences its effectiveness. While redeploying people is sometimes unavoidable, consideration needs to be given to the long-term effects on the workforce of frequent redeployment, and the potential impact this may have on staff turnover.
Role ambiguity (a lack of information or uncertainty about expectations and requirements of a role) and role conflict (opposing expectations in the work environment such as incompatible requests from different managers) have been widely reported as contributing to workplace stress and staff intention to leave. A Canadian study found that “when faced with stressful job demands such as role ambiguity and role conflict, perceptions of autonomy and, to a lesser extent, perceptions of competence shield nurses and prevent turnover intention”.2
How can these concepts of autonomy and competence be applied in practice to reduce the negative aspects of redeployment?
Managers should avoid redeploying staff to areas they are unfamiliar with. Nurses who experience autonomy (eg feelings of accomplishment and being able to make decisions) experience significantly less stress. Communication between the manager and nurse regarding suitability of redeployment is important. In a study undertaken of staff redeployed during the first wave of COVID-19 in the United Kingdom, the most common issue that staff felt contributed to their negative psychological outcomes was poor communication.1 Suggestions included clear communication about what the role entails and any training required, giving more notice of deployment, providing resources and support, rotating staff and reducing perceived time wasted due to overstaffing.
Good communication within the team was also identified, including about logistics, roles and workload. This helps staff assign patients who will not be too challenging for the redeployed nurse, and supporting nurses to feel competent and practise autonomously. Not dismissing concerns and being available to answer any questions they have can also help the nurse to feel well supported.
Redeployment is unavoidable in the current nursing climate, however attention to some of the points raised above may help prevent staff dissatisfaction, stress and high staff turnover.3
The nurse being redeployed also has a responsibility to speak up if they are assigned roles and tasks they do not feel competent to complete. The Code of Conduct for Nurses3 requires nurses to recognise and work within the limits of their competence and scope of practice, and ask for advice and assistance from colleagues as needed.
Redeployment is unavoidable in the current nursing climate; however attention to some of the points raised above may help prevent staff dissatisfaction, stress and high staff turnover. Many workplaces have policies and guidance to improve decision-making and transition. In addition, you will find further information about relocation within district health boards; and in “Redeployment/relocation of midwives – variance response”, www.nzno.org.nz/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=i7mO_18tH-U%3D&portalid=0, on the NZNO website.
- Walker, K., & Gerakios, F. (2021). Redeployment during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic: implications for a clinical research workforce. British Journal of Nursing, 30(12), 734-741. www.britishjournalofnursing.com/content/professional/redeployment-during-the-first-wave-of-the-covid-19-pandemic-implications-for-a-clinical-research-workforce
- Boudrias, V., Trepanier, S., Foucreault, A., Peterson, C., & Fernet, C. (2020). Investigating the role of psychological need satisfaction as a moderator in the relationship between job demands and turnover intention among nurses. Employee Relations, 42(1), 213-231. emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/ER-10-2018-0277/full/html
- Nursing Council of New Zealand. (2012). Code of Conduct. nursingcouncil.org.nz/Public/Nursing/Code_of_Conduct/NCNZ/nursing-section/Code_of_Conduct.aspx?