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  1. Hansen, April MSN, RN
  2. Tuttas, Carol PhD, RN


Researchers explored travel nurses' and permanent staff nurses' COVID-19 pandemic work experiences, seeking to understand, "How do these experiences influence nurses' motivation, happiness, stress, and career decisions?" The COVID-19 pandemic took a heavy physical and psychological toll on health care providers. Demand outweighed resources as nurses accepted the monumental task of caring for communities affected by the catastrophe. We aimed to gain insight into nurses' lived pandemic experiences in the United States, while exploring the impact of these experiences on their motives to remain in current positions or alter their career paths. In this descriptive, phenomenological study, interview data collected from 30 nurses were analyzed using qualitative content analysis. Physical and emotional trauma experienced during the early and peak months of the pandemic led nurses to evaluate their current work arrangements and to ponder alternatives. Our results suggest that pandemic work environments contributed to a change in nursing workforce distribution and exacerbated widening nurse shortage gaps. A call to action bids leaders to institute retention measures based on factors influencing nurses' career trajectory decisions in the current environment. Our findings led to recommendations for leadership approaches to promote nurses' emotional healing and mental wellness.