Welcome to the postdoctoral programme in nursing science!

Four stages of a researcher’s career

The purpose of the programme is to further postdoctoral research and academic career of the graduates.

The duration of the postdoctoral period is generally five active years following a dissertation. During these years the postdoctoral researcher establishes his/her own research group and area of study, as well as an international network. Progressing according to the postdoctoral programme enables applying for a title of docent after the postdoctoral period.

In case of the postdoctoral programme is not suitable as a whole, individually planned and shorter postdoctoral periods are possible. Shorter postdoctoral periods can be mentored if the postdoctoral research plan is high-quality and complements to the research programme of the Department. In addition, we are willing to mentor suitable postdoctoral researchers in their application for external funding. However, we cannot guarantee that the application to the funding body will be successful.

Requirements for becoming a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Nursing Science:

  1. a doctoral dissertation that has been defended or will be defended in the near future
  2. a research plan for the postdoctoral stage (including a plan for financial resources)
  3. a career plan in nursing science



Applying for the programme

  1. A researcher planning his/her postdoctoral study should contact the head of the research area of interest. An academically responsible senior researcher from the Department is needed to act as a mentor of the postdoctoral researcher during the postdoctoral period.
  2. The researcher draws up a research plan in co-operation with the mentor and/or the research group.  The research plan is formulated following the instructions of the Academy of Finland including a plan for financial resources and a career plan in nursing science. The plan must include the contact information of the Department’s senior researcher (mentor).
  3. The researcher sends the postdoctoral research plan, the CV, and the list of publications via email to the coordinator of the Doctoral Programme in Nursing Science (DPNurs) who delivers the papers to the steering committee of the DPNurs. ( The documents should be in English.
  4. The steering committee reviews and considers the postdoctoral plan for approval. The group makes a proposal to the head of the Department for the approval of the postdoctoral researcher.
  5. Based on the proposal by the steering committee, the head of the Department makes the decision on whether or not to approve the postdoctoral researcher in the Department. A decision of approval does not entail an employment relationship with the University of Turku. If necessary, the head of the Department will discuss the financial issues with the postdoctoral researcher.

Applying for a shorter post doc period

Length of postdoctoral period will be negotiated individually. The researchers interested in visiting the Department as postdoctoral researcher should:

  1. contact the head of the research area of interest. An academically responsible senior researcher from the Department is needed to act as a mentor of the postdoctoral researcher during the postdoctoral period.
  2. conduct a plan for the postdoctoral period about the aims and collaboration with the Department of Nursing Science. The mentor supports and approves the plan.
  3. prepare a research contract with the mentor. The length of the postdoctoral period should be defined in the contract which is signed by the Head of the Department.

The aim is that after completing the postdoctoral period, eligibility requirements for the title of Docent would be fulfilled.

The postdoctoral researcher should proceed, according to his/her plan, to contribute to the development of nursing science. Regular discussions with mentor are recommended at least yearly basis. Postdoctoral researcher is responsible for organizing the mentor discussions.

For the promotion of academic progress it is recommended for the postdoctoral researcher:

  • to participate in at least one international meeting per year (e.g. network, visit, conference). In addition, one longer-term, international working period during the postdoctoral stage is recommended. The aim is to build systematic international cooperation.
  • active international scientific output, meaning 1–3 international publications per year (in peer-refereed journals, with an impact factor and JUFO classification of level 2, at least) NOTE! To apply for the title of docent, a minimum of 20 publications are needed.
  • active national scientific output, meaning 1–3 publications in national professional journals (includes publications of the Department of Nursing Science), with the purpose of implementing the findings of the research.
  • activity in applying for research grants.

Academic career advancement requires cooperation and interaction between researchers. Academic cooperation may take the form of

  • an annual seminar day for postdoctoral researchers to promote peer support
  • an annual research symposium for junior researchers.

Such events are arranged by the postdoctoral researchers with the support of the coordinator of the Doctoral Programme in Nursing Science. Postdoctoral researchers are welcome to offer suggestions regarding forms of cooperation and to be proactive to develop collaboration between themselves, the staff of the Department, and other researchers as rewarding as possible to all parties concerned.


Director of Doctoral Programme in Nursing Science: Professor Riitta Suhonen,

Coordinator: Jenni Kankaanpää,

Post doc researchers

Kirsi Talman

TtT Kirsi Talman

Evanthia Sakellari

TtT Evanthia Sakellari

Marita Ritmala-Castrén

TtT Marita Ritmala-Castrén

Satu Kajander-Unkuri

TtT, Satu Kajander-Unkuri,
Yliopettaja, Diakonia-ammattikorkeakoulu

Post doc tutkimus 2017-2022

Competence of nursing students in Europe (COMPEUnurse)


The aim of this study is to evaluate the nurse competence of nursing students at the point of graduation and competence of newly graduated nurses in early years of practice in Europe and to identify factors related to nurse competence.

Main objectives and hypotheses of the study:

Table 1. Objectives and hypotheses of the study

Objectives: Hypotheses:

1. To assess and compare the level of competence of graduating nursing students at the point of graduation in Europe based on their self-assessment

2. To assess and compare the level of the competence of new nurses in early years of practice in Europe based on their self-assessment.

3. To identify and analyze the factors (individual, organizational) related to the level of competence at the point of graduation and in early years of practice in Europe.

4. To validate the instruments used in the study

1. The level of competence will increase from the level assessed at the point of graduation to the level assessed on the early years of practice

2. There are differences in the level of competence among partner countries

3. The high level of competence has a positive connection with socio-demographics, empowerment, self-directed learning, clinical learning/ work environment and job satisfaction.





  • An international longitudinal survey design.
  • GNSs (2018) from Czech Republic, Finland, Italy, Portugal, Slovakia, and Spain.
  • Follow-up studies 1 and 2 years after graduation (2019 and 2020).
  • The competence is measured using Nurse Competence Scale (NCS; Meretoja et al. 2004)
  • Statistical analysis

Post doc -tutkimusprojektini kohdentuu sairaanhoitajien kompetenssiin valmistumisvaiheessa sekä uran alkuvuosina (1 ja 2 vuotta valmistumisen jälkeen). Tarkoituksena on arvioida kompetenssitaso ja löytää kompetenssiin yhteydessä olevia tekijöitä. Tutkimukseen ovat osallistuneet vuonna 2018 valmistuneet sairaanhoitajaopiskelijat Espanjasta, Italiasta, Portugalista, Slovakiasta, Suomesta ja Tsekeistä.

Hannakaisa Niela-Vilén

Hannakaisa Niela-Vilén, PhD, RM, postdoctoral researcher
Department of Nursing Science, University of Turku, Finland
Email: hmniel(at)

Supporting parent-infant closeness and breastfeeding in birthing and neonatal units

The objective of this postdoctoral project (2016–2021) is to identify midwifery and nursing care practices which support parent-infant closeness and breastfeeding during the early neonatal period. Both full-term and preterm infants and their families are of interest. Closeness between a parent and infant is the key factor in early bonding. Both emotional and physical closeness with an infant are essential to the well-being of the parent. In addition, closeness is a precondition for successful breastfeeding, which is beneficial for both, a mother and her infant. By increasing our understanding about the different care practices concerning the early neonatal period it is possible to further increase parent-infant closeness and breastfeeding.

The project includes the following sub-studies:

  • Study 1:
    The aim was to measure compliance with the Neo-BFHI recommendations in neonatal wards in Finland and in a set of other countries. A cross-sectional survey to measure compliance with the policies and practices outlined in the Neo-BFHI in the neonatal wards was used.

    Maastrup R, Haiek L. & The Neo-BFHI survey group 2019. Compliance with the “Baby-friendly Hospital Initiative for Neonatal Wards” in 36 countries. Maternal & Child Nutrition 15(2), e12690. doi: 10.1111/mcn.12690

    Niela-Vilén H, Ezeonodo A, Hannula L. 2020. Neonataaliosastojen Vauvamyönteisyysohjelman (Neo-BFHI) mukaisten suositusten toteutuminen vastasyntyneiden teho- ja tarkkailuosastoilla Suomessa. (Compliance with the Neo-BFHI practices in neonatal wards in Finland) Manuscript
  • Study 2:
    The aim was to explore midwives and parents’ perceptions and actions as well as the culture surrounding the golden hour in a birthing room. A short-term ethnographic method was used and data were collected in two Finnish birth hospitals.

    Niela-Vilen H, Axelin A, Flacking R. 2020. The golden hour in Finnish birthing units - an ethnographic study.  Under review
  • Study 3:
    The aim was to evaluate the effectiveness of Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative on breastfeeding, breastfeeding counselling and breastfeeding attitudes. Quasi-experimental design with pre- and post-intervention measures was used in Satasairaala, Pori. The data will be analysed and reported during 2020-2021.
  • Study 4:
    The aim was to better understand how fathers/partners might be included to aid in the early expression of human milk after preterm birth. Lactation education intervention with fathers/partners was added to the routine information provided for the mothers. Qualitative interviews with both the parents and midwives were utilized to better understand the parent and clinician perception of this education. The data will be analysed and reported during 2019-2020.
Heli Virtanen

TtT Heli Virtanen

Mari Lahti

TtT Mari Lahti

Virpi Sulosaari

TtT, tutkijatohtori Virpi Sulosaari, Turun yliopisto, hoitotieteen laitos,  

Yliopettaja, Turku AMK, Executive Board Member European Oncology Nursing Society (EONS), Chair of EONS Communication Working Group

Post doc Tutkimus 2017 – 2022

”Syöpäsairaanhoitajan kompetenssi - erityisosaaminen syöpäpotilaan hoitotyössä”

Syöpä on yleisin kuolinsyy maailmassa, 14 miljoonaa uutta syöpätapausta todetaan vuosittain ja niistä noin puolet johtaa potilaan kuolemaan. Samaan aikaan hoidon tulokset ovat parantuneet ja syöpä on sairausryhmänä nykyisin keskeinen osa kroonisia (NCD) sairauksia. Hoitojen tuloksissa ja kuolleisuudessa on kuitenkin eroja maiden välillä Suomen kuuluessa hoitotuloksiltaan kärkimaihin. Tällä hetkellä joka kolmas suomalainen sairastuu syöpään ja yli puolet heistä paranee. Syöpään on arvioitu sairastuvan lähivuosina jo yli 33 000 ihmistä vuosittain. Suomessa elää kaikkiaan yli 260 000 syövän jossain elämänsä vaiheessa sairastunutta ihmistä. Syöpä sairautena onkin yksi kansanterveydellisesti ja taloudellisesti merkittävä haaste.   Tarve syövän hoidolle ja hoidon osaajille on lisääntynyt. Syöpäpotilaan hoito- ja palvelukokonaisuudessa sairaanhoitajat ovat yksi keskeinen ammattiryhmä, joiden roolia pidetään kansainvälisesti keskeisenä hoidon toteutuksessa ja sen vaikuttavuudessa.   Yhtenä haasteena vaikuttavuuden arvioinnissa on syöpähoitotyön koulutuksen kirjavuus sairaanhoitajien perus- ja, erikoistumiskoulutuksessa sekä ylemmissä korkeakoulututkinnoissa.

Syöpäpotilaan hoitotyön koulutuksen tulisi perustua osaamisvaatimuksiin. Syöpäsairaanhoitajan kompetenssikuvauksia tai opetussuunnitelmien sisältökuvauksia ei Suomessa ole julkaistu.  Myös kansainvälisesi kuvauksia on julkaistu niukasti, lähinnä syöpäsairaanhoitajan kompetenssista lääkehoitoon liittyvään erityisosaamiseen kohdistuen.  Syöpäpotilaan hoitaminen on kompleksinen ja laaja kokonaisuus., jonka tulisi olla yksilöllistä, potilaslähtöistä ja kokonaisvaltaista. Olennaisena osana hoitotyön toteutusta on potilasohjaus, potilaan ja hänen omaistensa tuki, kommunikaatio moniammatillisessa työryhmässä ja potilaan sekä hänen omaistensa kanssa.

Tutkimushankkeen tavoitteena on edistää syöpäsairaanhoitajien erityisosaamista sekä tehdä näkyväksi syöpäpotilaan turvallisen hoidon toteutumisen edellyttämä syöpäsairaanhoitajan kompetenssi. Tutkimushanke vahvistaa syöpäsairaanhoitajien kompetenssin tunnustamista ja osallisuutta syöpäpotilaan moniammatillisesti toteutettavassa hoito- ja palvelukokonaisuudessa sekä kansallisesti että kansainvälisesti. Tutkimushankkeen tarkoituksena on 1) määritellä ja arvioida syöpäsairaanhoitajan kompetenssi ja 2) kuvata syöpäpotilaan hoitotyön opetuksen keskeiset sisältöalueet sairaanhoitajien perus- ja tutkinnonjälkeisessä lisäkoulutuksessa. Tutkimushanke on kansainvälinen.

Jaana-Maija Koivisto

TtT Jaana-Maija Koivisto

Simulation games and virtual reality simulation in healthcare education


The aim of the study is to enhance quality of care and patient safety by increasing nursing students’ and nurses’ clin-ical reasoning skills and knowledge in different contexts of nursing by utilizing new technology in healthcare education.


  • The effectiveness of the simulation game on nursing students’ clinical knowledge and clinical reasoning skills.
  • Clinical reasoning pathways and patterns of clinical reasoning behavior in the simulation game.
  • Simulation game as a final exam evaluation method.
  • Nurses’ clinical reasoning skills, knowledge and attitude of palliative care in the simulation game.
  • Nursing students’ clinical reasoning skills in the virtual reality simulation game.
  • User experience in a virtual reality simulation.


  • Design-based research
  • Mixed research methods
  • User research
  • Feasibility study
Anne Kuusisto

FT Anne Kuusisto

Heidi Parisod

Heidi Parisod, PhD, RN/PHN, postdoctoral researcher
Department of Nursing Science, University of Turku, Finland
Email: heidi.parisod(a)

Post doc research projects concentrate on health promotion of children and adolescents and digital interventions as well as on evidence-based nursing from different perspectives.

Post doc -tutkimusprojektini kohdentuvat lasten ja nuorten terveyden edistämiseen, digitaalisiin interventioihin sekä näyttöön perustuvaan hoitotyöhön eri näkökulmista.

Lotta Hamari

TtT Lotta Hamari

Tanja Moilanen

TtT Tanja Moilanen

Anni Pakarinen

Anni Pakarinen, PhD, RN, postdoctoral researcher
Senior researcher, Development manager
Department of Nursing Science, University of Turku, Finland

Gamification for health promotion

The aim of the study is to develop, evaluate and implement gamified interventions for health promotion purposes in different contexts and among different stakeholders. The sub-studies are conducted during multidisciplinary and international collaborative projects. Studies include development through user-centered design process, evaluation of the usability, feasibility and effectiveness of the interventions, as well as exploring the implementation process of the interventions.

The ultimate goal is to provide both the knowledge and methods to support the work of professionals, to promote the health of individuals and to support the use of high quality and evidence-based digital interventions in health and social care. The goal is also to provide information that may be utilized in the design and development of new digital interventions for health promotion purposes. 

Laura-Maria Peltonen

TtT Laura-Maria Peltonen

Valérie Lebel

Valérie Lebel, N, PhD., Post-doctoral researcher, Department of Nursing Science, University of Turku, Joukahaisenkatu 3-5, 20520 Turku, Finland; Professor, Université du Québec en Outaouais, 5 St-Joseph, St-Jérôme, Québec, Canada, J7Z 0B7, * Primary contact person

Nancy Feeley, N, Ph.D., Associate professor, McGill University, Ingram School of Nursing, 680 Sherbrooke West, Suite 1800, Montreal, QC, Canada, H3A 2M7,

Anna Axelin, N, Ph.D., Associate professor, Department of Nursing Science, University of Turku, Joukahaisenkatu 3-5, 20520 Turku, Finland,

Project 1: Physical and emotional closeness for parents with a preterm baby in NICU

Emotional closeness is an emotional state with feelings of love, affection, or connection between the parents and infant (Flacking et al., 2016). The presence of emotional closeness is important to establish a parent-infant relationship. Physical separation of the parents from their infant is common in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) and this separation has detrimental consequences on parent-infant attachment, emotional closeness, parental psychological well-being, and development of the preterm infant (Flacking et al., 2012). The development of emotional closeness, the moments when parents feel it, and the elements that promote it are not well known.

This study aims to:

  1. Describe parent-infant physical closeness, and the quality of FCC from the perspectives of both mothers and fathers in NICU;
  2. Examine if parents’ psychological well-being assessed at 4 months after the expected birth date of the preterm infant is associated with the extent or type of parent-infant closeness and the quality of FCC during the hospitalization;
  3. Describe parent-infant emotional closeness from the perspectives of mothers and fathers in NICU and examine the relationship between emotional and physical closeness;
  4. Explore father-infant emotional closeness from the perspective of NICU

This mixed design study is conduct in a level 3 NICU in Montreal, Canada. Parents are included in the study if their infant is born at < 35 weeks gestation. Both parents, only the mother, or only the father can choose to participate. Participants are ask to record in a self-report diary when they experience physical closeness with their infant and when they feel emotionally close to him, as well as their involvement in their infant’s care (feeding, pumping, bathing, diaper changing, singing, talking, reading, and other), each day, for two weeks. Parents are ask to complete questionnaires about their background information, the quality of family-centered care and their mood (depressive symptoms). As well, they reply to daily text messages questions about family-centered care. Fathers involved in the study are asked if they wish to participate in an interview about their perception of emotional closeness. Recruitment will take place until data saturation is obtained. Descriptive analyses will be conduct for quantitative data and content analysis will be conduct for qualitative data.

Project 2: Sleep and prematurity: Characteristics of sleep and effects on the well-being of parents and family

Several studies highlighted the multiple challenges families who give birth prematurely must deal with. Among other things, these families experience an alteration of their family dynamics given the prolonged hospitalization of the child born preterm and the condition of the child when he returns home (Amorim et al., 2018). They also experience a disturbance in their sleep patterns in relation to the alteration of their premature infant sleep and a psychological distress is present during and after hospitalization (Lee & Hsu, 2012; Schaffer, 2012). All of these factors contribute to the fact that parents of a preterm child have less well-being and a negative perception of their quality of life (Amorim et al., 2018) in the months following the child’s birth. If the vulnerability of these families is documented, the needs of parents about their sleep and the sleep of their infant have been little.

This project aims to:

  1. Assess the sleep patterns of children born preterm at 12 months corrected age or less, as well as sleep patterns of their parents;
  2. Assess the well-being of parents with a child born preterm at less than 12 months of age by documenting the prevalence of parents' symptoms of depression, stress, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress;
  3. Identify the needs of parents regarding the sleep of their preterm child at 12 months of corrected age or less;
  4. Explore relationships between needs identified by parents about their premature child's sleep, the preterm infant sleep patterns, parental sleep patterns, parental well-being, and family.

For this mixed design project, a convenience sample of 30 families will be recruit. To participate, parents must be over the age of 18, speak and write French and be the father or mother of a child born preterm at 32 weeks of gestation or less. The preterm infant must be less than 12 months of corrected age at the time of recruitment. Recruitment will take place in a neonatal follow-up clinic at a pediatric hospital in Montreal where preterm infants have long-term medical and social follow-up. Quantitative measures will assess the sleep habits of preterm children and their parents (validated questionnaires and actigraphy), assess the well-being of parents (validated questionnaires) and assess the family functioning (validated questionnaires). Qualitative data will explore the needs, lived experience and perceived impact of parents sleep patterns, sleep patterns of their premature child, and the family well-being (individual interview with each parent). Quantitative data will be analyzed with SPSS software to provide descriptive statistics and correlations. Verbatim of semi-directed interviews will be analyzed with N-VIVO software to perform content analysis.

Amorim, M., Alves, E., Kelly-Irving, M., Ribeiro, A. I., & Silva, S. (2018). Quality of life of parents of very preterm infants 4 months after birth: a mixed methods study. Health and Quality of Life Outcomes, 16; 178.

Flacking, R., Lehtonen, L., Thomson, G., Axelin, A., Ahlqvist, S., Hall Moran, V., Ewald, U., Dykes, F. & the SCENE group. (2012). Closeness and separation in neonatal intensive care. Acta Paediatrica, 101, 1032–1037.

Flacking, R., Thomson, G. & Axelin, A. (2016). Pathways to emotional closeness in neonatal units – a cross- national qualitative study. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, 16:170

Lee, S.Y. & Hsu, H.C. (2012). Stress and health-related well-being among mothers with a low birth weight infant: the role of sleep. Soc Sci Med, 74; 958–65.

Schaffer, L. (2012). The impact of guided imagery on sleep quality in mothers of preterm infants. California: University of San Diego.