Mapping the peer-reviewed literature on accommodating nurses’ return to work after leaves of absence for mental health issues: a scoping review Journal Articles uri icon

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  • AbstractBackgroundThe complexity of nursing practice increases the risk of nurses suffering from mental health issues, such as substance use disorders, anxiety, burnout, depression, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These mental health issues can potentially lead to nurses taking leaves of absence and may require accommodations for their return to work. The purpose of this review was to map key themes in the peer-reviewed literature about accommodations for nurses’ return to work following leaves of absence for mental health issues.MethodsA six-step methodological framework for scoping reviews was used to summarize the amount, types, sources, and distribution of the literature. The academic literature was searched through nine electronic databases. Electronic charts were used to extract code and collate the data. Findings were derived inductively and summarized thematically and numerically.ResultsAcademic literature is scarce regarding interventions for nurses’ return to work following leaves of absence for mental health issues, and most focused on substance use concerns. Search of the peer-reviewed literature yielded only six records. The records were primarily quantitative studies (n= 4, 68%), published between 1997 and 2018, and originated in the United States (n= 6, 100%). The qualitative thematic findings addressed three major themes: alternative to discipline programs (ADPs), peer support, and return to work policies, procedures, and practices.ConclusionsWhile the literature supports alternative to discipline programs as a primary accommodation supporting return to work of nurses, more on the effectiveness of such programs is required. Empirical evidence is necessary to develop, maintain, and refine much needed return to work accommodations for nurses after leaves of absence for mental health issues.


  • Covell, Christine L
  • Sands, Shamel Rolle
  • Ingraham, Kenchera
  • Lavoie-Tremblay, Melanie
  • Price, Sheri L
  • Reichert, Carol
  • Bourgeault, Ivy

publication date

  • December 2020