eesti teaduste
akadeemia kirjastus
SINCE 1952
Proceeding cover
of the estonian academy of sciences
ISSN 1736-7530 (Electronic)
ISSN 1736-6046 (Print)
Impact Factor (2022): 0.9
Research article
Nurses’ professional activity and work culture in Soviet Estonia and in the transition period; pp. 322–330

Merle Talvik, Taimi Tulva, Kristi Puusepp

The qualitative study aimed to analyse Estonian nurses’ professional activity and work culture during the Soviet era and the transition period of the 1990s from the perspective of senior nurses. 

In 1940–1941 and 1944–1991, the territory of the Republic of Estonia was occupied by Soviet Russia. The ‘new period of awakening’ was initiated under Gorbachev’s perestroika and glasnost (1985–1991), leading to democratisation. As soon as the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Estonia began to establish a new healthcare system based on European standards.

The research was conducted in 2021 and 2022. Senior nurses (aged 69–87) who had worked for at least 20 years during the Soviet era and at least 5 years during the transition period were surveyed. Thematic interviews were conducted in written form and orally (13 interviewees), followed by a focus group interview (8 interviewees). A thematic content analysis was performed.

Nurses’ daily work during the Soviet era was characterised by poor working conditions, hierarchical professional relations, and miserable career prospects. Nursing, like many other fields, was strongly influenced by Soviet ideology. The relationship between nurses was mutually supportive. The period of transition created a chaotic situation – the working methods of the previous period were considered outdated, but no new direction had yet been established. Nurses’ knowledge was improved through professional training and access to foreign experience.


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