Dr. MacDonald completed a Master’s degree in Nursing at the University of Toronto, Canada and a PhD at the University of Manchester in the UK. Currently she is a Professor in the Faculty of Nursing at the University of New Brunswick (Canada). Dr. MacDonald’s doctoral work examined respite for parents who were caring for children who required complex care. This paper comes from that work. Dr. MacDonald has three children of her own.


In this paper the results of a qualitative study involving 40 women who returned to work after being off for a minimum of three months are presented. Using grounded theory, the researcher recruited and interviewed 40 English speaking women who had a period of time away from work due to depression. These women were interviewed using a conversational approach that encouraged them to tell their story. The interviews were audio recorded, transcribed verbatim and entered into N Vivo. Line by line coding led to the development of categories and themes that described the women’s experiences. Women revealed that they were stigmatized by their co-workers and bosses but at the same time they stigmatized themselves. The women also reported that they wore a mask due to the stigma associated with having a mental illness. Unfortunately wearing this mask further contributed to the feelings of social isolation the women experienced. Women were asked about how depression affected them at work and about their experiences of returning to work. Responses included “I needed a gradual return” and “I had no support – if I had a broken leg there would have been support.” Women return to work for financial reasons, because their sick time has expired and to combat social isolation. Some of the barriers to women returning to work that have emerged from the data include stigma and discrimination, a fear of self-disclosure, and concentration and memory issues. Strategies for combating these barriers will be discussed.