Stories of Exemplary Hospital Registered Nurses: A Narrative Analysis

Open Access
Snelson, Donna Ayers
Graduate Program:
Adult Education
Doctor of Education
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
October 25, 2010
Committee Members:
  • Patricia Angelica Cranton, Dissertation Advisor/Co-Advisor
  • Patricia Angelica Cranton, Committee Chair/Co-Chair
  • Elizabeth Jean Tisdell, Committee Member
  • Samuel William Monismith, Committee Member
  • Denise Gaspari Meister, Committee Member
  • retention in nursing
  • exceptional nurses
  • nurse stories
  • narrative analysis
ABSTRACT Today the multidimensional global shortage of nurses is negatively impacting the work environment of hospital nurses and causing, in a cyclical fashion, decreasing work satisfaction, increasing nurse turnover, and decreasing patient outcomes. While strategies aimed at causation of the nursing shortage must be addressed, to support nursing until resolution occurs, it is essential to focus on strategies aimed at retaining nurses within this challenging health care environment. Using qualitative research, narrative inquiry and personal narratives, this study documents the stories of six exemplary hospital nurses who not only have stayed and survived in this hostile and challenging environment of hospital nursing, but continue to grow professionally and provide exceptional nursing care; their story is a story of career satisfaction and career success. Using narrative analysis, these stories were co-constructed with the researcher and the exceptional hospital nurses from data obtained through two interactive narrative sessions. An in depth three dimensional analysis of both the individual and collective narratives was completed. The findings of this study revealed numerous exceptional nurse characteristics and traits which not only appear within, but transcend the individual nurse narratives. First and foremost, this study indicated that the concept of caring permeated all aspects of their personal and professional being. They not only cared for their patients but these exceptional nurses cared deeply for and respected their peers, their families, their profession and themselves. Life-long learning took precedence in their nursing career, and though they believed in formal education, few pursued advanced credentials. They unanimously believed the greatest educational emphasis in nursing should be on experiential learning. Along with exemplary and positive attitudes, the exceptional nurses in this study were extremely pragmatic, value-driven individuals and employed a solutions-focused approach to problem solving. Nursing was viewed by these nurses as a profession of rewards and they celebrated these rewards continually. When compared to the extant literature on the concept of resiliency, the exceptional hospital nurses in this study displayed many of the traits of resilient individuals. Implications for adult and narrative learning are explored within this research study and, based on the findings of this study, implications for nursing education, nursing practice and future nursing research are presented. Since few studies have been completed which identify the characteristics and traits of exemplary and/or resilient hospital nurses, this study serves to add to the body of knowledge on hospital nurse exceptionality, nurse retention and nurse resiliency.