Professional Identity in the Lived Experience of Hospital Nurses

Friday, 28 July 2017

Tullamora T. Diede, PhD
College of Nursing, Washington State University, Spokane, WA, USA


The purpose of this study is to explore the phenomenon of the lived experience of nurses working with patients in hospitals and, with that information, to identify meaningful themes and patterns of how their workplace environment impacts their sense of professional identity. The specific aim of this study is to describe, interpret and, therefore better understand the lived experience of nurses working with patients in a hospital environment and the meaning of this phenomenon as it relates to their professional identify.

Rationale/Background: Over three million nurses currently holding active licenses to practice in the U.S. (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2015); An estimated 30% of nurses leave their job within the first year and 27% report bullying in the last six months (Breau & Rheame, 2013; Johnson & Rea, 2009). Attrition is a common issue in the nursing workforce. Nurses experience oppression in their relationships with physicians and other health professionals (Risjord, 2010) as well as through lateral violence or bullying from other nurses (Johnson & Rea, 2009; Purpora, Blegen, & Stotts, 2012). Nurses play an essential role in a hospitalized patient’s healthcare team providing skilled care and assessment. However, nurses have commonly been viewed as a less important, submissive healthcare team member when compared to other members of the healthcare team (Olofsson, Bengtsson, & Brink, 2003). Moreover, compared to physicians, nurses are considered less intelligent and less competent (Institutes of Medicine, 2011). Paradoxically, an annual poll by Gallup (2015) consistently identifies nursing as a highly trustworthy profession by the general public. This dichotomy of simultaneously being considered incompetent yet holding a high level of trust may leave nurses to question their own professionalism. Historical, political, and sociological factors contribute substantially to this view of nursing within the present health care culture (Roberts, 2000). Because of nursing’s struggle for respect in conjunction with their rates of attrition and bullying, there is a critical need to understand the work of a professional registered nurse.


Philosophical hermeneutics will be used as the methodology to study this phenomenon. Researchers from this philosophical perspective seek to gain knowledge by interpreting the everyday experiences of those being studied in an effort to better understanding their world and to identify what shows itself as meaningful. Ultimately, philosophical hermeneutics believes that there is revealed truth in every human experience, not simply one universal truth to be revealed (Willis, 2007). Therefore, this methodology seeks to reveal a deeper understanding of how nurses create a professional identity for themselves in the work that they do with their patients through the narratives or voices of interviewing the nurses themselves.


This dissertation is currently in the pilot stage with preliminary results to be presented.


The results of this study, when shared with nurses and other health care professionals, will yield a better understanding of the profession of nursing as explicated in the real work of nurses.