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Clukey, Lory

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This dissertation examined the experience of nursing professional identity development from the perspectives of both associate degree nursing (ADN) students and baccalaureate degree nursing (BSN) students in their final semester of study. This study filled gaps in the research by providing insight into the experience of the nursing professional identity itself and the factors identified by nursing students that supported or revealed a lack of professional identity development. This research helped to develop an understanding of two main experiences: (a) what is the meaning of a nurse’s professional identity to students in their final semester of nursing school? and (b) what are the contexts of the experiences of professional identity formation as a nurse? Answers to these research questions were developed through individual and focus group discussions with students in their final semester of study from two schools of nursing in southern California. Students were guided through individual interviews using semi-structured interview questions and later invited to focus groups with other students to clarify and elaborate on previous comments. Results demonstrated both groups shared many descriptions of what it means to be a nursing professional; primary among them were concepts of knowledge, caring, teamwork, and integrity. The interviews also demonstrated similarities in factors that supported the development of nursing professional identity including experience, instructor support, role models, and self-motivation. Experience, independence, and trust were more closely related to the experiences of professional identity formation. Teamwork, communication, advocacy, and leadership were concepts the participants frequently used to describe the professional nurse; whereas role models, reflection, support, and self-motivation were described more often as tools for professional identity development. These findings related very closely to previous research studies on professional identity formation, much of which was done from the perspective of nurse educators, nurse executives, and experienced nurses. One unexpected finding was the lack of differentiation in the experiences and opinions of BSN- and ADN-prepared nursing students. Recommendations for nursing educators included the use of more clinical and experiential learning, guided reflection, and leadership training. This research provided an important perspective on nursing professional identity, adding depth and a fresh perspective to further the understanding of this important topic in nursing education.


Constructivism, Experiential Learning, Nursing Education, Nursing Students, Professional Identity


174 pages

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