Date of Award

Fall 12-2023

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Leadership and Advanced Nursing Practice

Committee Chair

Dr. Norma Cuellar

Committee Chair School

Leadership and Advanced Nursing Practice

Committee Member 2

Dr. Marti Jordan

Committee Member 2 School

Leadership and Advanced Nursing Practice

Committee Member 3

Dr. Lachel Story

Committee Member 3 School

Leadership and Advanced Nursing Practice

Committee Member 4

Dr. Mary Ellen Stewart


The impact of the COVID-19 global pandemic has been rated as the highest factor of intent to leave the profession in nurses serving in a leadership role. During the pandemic, crisis leadership swept across academia partly because nursing academia was not prepared for the rapid transition to virtual instruction. The reopening of nursing programs, while pandemic restrictions were still required, caused unprecedented disruptions and stress for academic leaders. One-third of nursing faculty anticipate retirement within the next two years. With the present burnout and shortage of nursing academia leaders, there was a need to explore the lived experience of academic chief nurse administrators (ACNAs) to illuminate the phenomena of crisis leadership during the pandemic and the effects of the pandemic on nursing academic leadership.

The purpose of this study was to explore the lived experience of ACNAs in pre-licensure nursing programs (PLNPs) who returned to campus after full virtual instruction due to the pandemic. This qualitative study utilized descriptive phenomenology through Husserlian phenomenology with Colaizzi’s method of data analysis as the philosophical and methodological framework. The sample included ACNAs in the state of Georgia who had been serving in their role since the onset of the pandemic, held a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or above, were a registered nurse (RN), and served in a PLNP that went to full virtual instruction during the pandemic. One-on-one semi-structured interviews were conducted with seven participants. Interviews were completed via Zoom®.

Four themes emerged: ACNA Leadership and Challenges During a Pandemic on Campus; Navigating Leadership Challenges and Obstacles During an Ongoing Pandemic on Campus; Managing Support and Work-Life Balance; and Reflection and Moving Forward as an ACNA Leader. This study illuminated ACNAs' leadership experiences during a global pandemic, when they were confronted with experiences no one had seen before. The results highlighted ACNAs' strengths and weaknesses. ACNAs can use these results to determine the professional development needed to improve their weaknesses and utilize their strengths to mentor other, and future, ACNAs. Furthermore, this study’s results can help current and future ACNAs understand the importance of having mentorship and leadership tools for future crises.