Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Growing a professional identity: A grounded theory of the educational experience of baccalaureate nursing students
by Goodolf, Dawn M., Ph.D., Widener University School of Nursing, 2013, 200; 3570584
Abstract (Summary)

Nursing students experience high levels of stress while enrolled in baccalaureate nursing programs. Research has focused on the contributors of stress such as the responsibilities of patient care, the overwhelming amount of information, high stakes methods of evaluation, and rigorous course schedules. Little research has been found on the personal experiences as told by the nursing students, the challenges they experience, and the support networks they utilize in order to progress. The purpose of this grounded theory study was to describe and explain the experiences of pre-licensure baccalaureate nursing students as they progressed in a nursing program. A second purpose was to describe the coping strategies nursing students used to adjust to the stressors of nursing education and college life.

Strauss and Corbin's approach to grounded theory was utilized to guide this study. The fundamental philosophical underpinnings for this grounded theory approach was based in pragmatism and social interactionism. Data were collected from observations and 17 semi-structured interviews. The constant comparative method was used to analyze the data, codes were organized into categories and themes were identified until data saturation was reached. A model emerged that graphically represented the relationships and processes.

The basic social psychological process (BSPP) for baccalaureate nursing students that emerged was 'searching for balance and utilizing support networks while growing a professional identity.' The core category identified was unanticipated expectations; the sub-categories that emerged were self-doubt, confidence, sacrifice, rigor, and relevance. In order to successfully progress through the program, students needed to relinquish preconceptions and acclimate to the professional and academic nursing climate.

This study offers a systematic framework for understanding the educational experiences of baccalaureate nursing students. Findings support and broaden previous theories and research on the expectations and professional identity of nursing students. Understanding this process is beneficial for educators to explore the challenges of students and promote a student-centered learning environment that will assist in the retention of qualified students. Recommendations are advanced that socialization into the profession should occur earlier in the educational process in order to foster the development of a positive professional identity and better prepare nursing students to transition into practice.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Patterson, Barbara
School: Widener University School of Nursing
Department: Nursing
School Location: United States -- Pennsylvania
Source: DAI-B 74/10(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Social studies education, Nursing
Keywords: Baccalaureate nursing students, College students, Educational experience, Millenial, Nursing students, Professional identity, Stress
Publication Number: 3570584
ISBN: 978-1-303-15750-9
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