How One Forms a Professional Identity: Perspectives from Pre-Licensure Student Nurses and Their Faculty

Monday, 22 July 2013

Nelda Godfrey, PhD, APRN, BC
University of Kansas, University of Kansas School of Nursing, kansas City, KS
Nancy J. Crigger, RN, PhD, MA
Nursing, Graceland University, Independence, MO

Learning Objective 1: Describe student perceptions of professional identity, professionalism, and the definition of nursing as they progress in their pre-licensure nursing programs.

Learning Objective 2: Discuss faculty strategies to form and foster a professional identity as part of pre-licensure nursing education.

Purpose:  Forming a professional identity within a discipline is a multi-faceted process (Sullivan, 2005). However, empirical evidence about 1) how to form a professional nursing identity and 2) factors that positively influence professional identity formation during the pre-licensure educational experience is absent.  Despite the lack of evidence, nursing faculty continue to be concerned about the lack of professionalism in student populations and have few tools available to assess and intervene as they facilitate students’ learning about these complex values and behaviors. This research is an important first step in developing a data-driven body of knowledge for forming professional identity in nursing. 

Methods:  A qualitative survey with three open-ended questions are used to assess student responses about professional identity formation, professionalism, and the definition of nursing.  Students from three different types of schools of nursing--a baccalaureate, small private liberal arts college, a baccalaureate, public, research intensive university, and a public, urban community college--are surveyed at three specific points in their pre-licensure programs.  Faculty from each of the three schools participate in recorded, semi-structured focus groups designed to discover strategies that faculty use with each group of students to form and foster professional identity formation.

Results: The first of three periods of data collection is completed, and analysis of student responses is underway using NVIVO 9.0 qualitative software.  Preliminary results indicate thoughtful, comprehensive responses from each student group.  Focus group sessions with faculty will take place December 2012, with findings determined by March 2013.

Conclusion:  Pre-licensure students in three nursing programs thoughtfully respond to open ended questions about professionalism, professional identity formation, and the definition of nursing.  Complete findings of the first period of data collection and of the focus groups responses will be completed by May 2013.