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Sandra Zwakhalen

Health Services Research

Sandra Zwakhalen

” Geriatric home care starts by caring, but includes so much more”.

Sandra currently holds a position as a full professor at the Department of Health Services Research at the Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences of Maastricht University. She is the head of the Department of Health Services Research (HSR) where over 120 researchers and support staff are employed.

Research area of interest: Geriatric nursing home care.

She is involved as a supervisor in various projects on geriatric care. More specifically these projects focus on essential nursing care which is ‘the most provided care but the least evidence-based’. On the other hand, she conducts projects that aim to assess and improve the quality of home for older adults and nurses.

She is a board member of the Living Lab in Ageing and Long-Term Care (Academische Werkplaats Ouderenzorg Limburg;, which is a sustainable and successful formal collaboration between research, teaching and care organizations providing long-term care using joint appointments and multidisciplinarity. The AWO-L contributes via scientific research to better quality of life of older persons, quality of care and quality of work of caregivers in long-term care. Furthermore, Zwakhalen holds a position at Zuyd University of applied science in the Netherlands.

She currently coordinates the Policy, Management and Evaluation of Health Care track of the Bachelor Health Science program at Maastricht University. She is highly involved in the development and execution of the Dual track of the Bachelor of Nursing at Zuyd Unversity of Applied Science that focuses on care for older people.

After completing her PdH in Dec 2007 on pain assessment in people with dementia she completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Regina (Canada). She was appointed as visiting professor at Greenwich University between 2012-2016. For various years she was a member of the board (treasurer) of the European Academy of Nursing Science (EANS Sandra has also been active in coaching activities within professional organizations and she participates as a member of (advisory) boards. She is regularly invited as a keynote speaker at scientific conferences, (guest) editor and reviewer for scientific journals and reviewer of major international research funding agencies and universities. She is a reviewer for a variety of journals and has been successful in acquiring major research grants and managing projects.


Countries Belgium; Netherlands;
Topics Care outcomes; Community-based LTC; Deinstitutionalisation; Dementia care and support; End-of-life care and LTC; Pain management in care homes; Unpaid / informal care;
Methods Data science and LTC research; Literature reviews and synthesis; Mixed methods; Qualitative studies; Quasi-experimental methods; Questionnaire; Surveys; Systematic Review; Theory and frameworks; Trials and other evaluations;
Role Research;
Interest Groups Community-based approaches to dementia care; Pain in Care Homes;
Research interests

Home care, dementia care. care outcomes, pain assessment.

Key publications

Sandra published over 120 peer reviewed articles. E.g.

Cremer S, de Man-van Ginkel JM, Zwakhalen SMG, Willems J, Metzelthin SF, Veenstra MY, Bleijlevens MHC. The struggle is real-A mixed qualitative methods synthesis of challenges in nursing care in activities of daily living. J Nurs Scholarsh. 2023 Nov;55(6):1092-1105. doi: 10.1111/jnu.12921. Epub 2023 Jun 6. PMID: 37278376.

Van Dorst JJIE, Schwenke M, Bleijenberg N, De Jong JD, Brabers AAEM, Zwakhalen SMG. Defining practice variation and exploring influencing factors on needs assessment in home care nursing: A Delphi study. J Adv Nurs. 2023 Sep;79(9):3426-3439. doi: 10.1111/jan.15680. Epub 2023 Apr 23. PMID: 37089061.

Buma LE, Vluggen S, Zwakhalen S, Kempen GIJM, Metzelthin SF. Effects on clients’ daily functioning and common features of reablement interventions: a systematic literature review. Eur J Ageing. 2022 May 3;19(4):903-929. doi: 10.1007/s10433-022-00693-3. PMID: 36506663; PMCID: PMC9729664.

van Lierop MEA, Meijers JMM, van Rossum E, Rutten JER, Thoma-Lürken T, Zwakhalen SMG. How to establish workplace learning in long-term care: results from a World Café dialogue. BMC Nurs. 2022 Aug 29;21(1):241. doi: 10.1186/s12912-022-00999-8. PMID: 36038912; PMCID: PMC9423694.