AN EXPLORATION OF REGISTERED NURSES’ INTENTIONS TO LEAVE THE PROFESSION: A QUALITATIVE STUDY

Open Access
Author:
Lutter, Stacy Lynn
Graduate Program:
Adult Education
Degree:
Doctor of Education
Document Type:
Dissertation
Date of Defense:
February 21, 2011
Committee Members:
  • Elizabeth Jean Tisdell, Dissertation Advisor
  • Elizabeth Jean Tisdell, Committee Chair
  • Edward W Taylor, Committee Member
  • Judith E Hupcey, Committee Member
  • Samuel William Monismith, Committee Member
  • Gary Kuhne, Committee Member
Keywords:
  • intentions to leave
  • gender
  • poststructural feminism
  • registered nurse
  • nursing shortage
Abstract:
The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore the perceptions of female registered nurses who have intentions to leave the profession with particular attention to the influence of gender. The theoretical framework of feminist poststructuralism informed this study, which emphasizes the role of discourse and power relations in the construction of identity. An aim of this study was to uncover the visible and invisible influences of gender as a social structure in respect to workplace experiences and career decisions in nursing. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with eleven female registered nurses who had serious intentions of leaving the nursing profession. Five major themes emerged from the data: feelings of duty and obligation; the power distribution in the hierarchy; growing incongruity between working conditions and patient care; interpersonal communication; and shifting perspectives on work and self. The findings suggest that gender role socialization was an influence on career entry into nursing which was related in some ways to the decision to leave nursing. The participants felt unable to provide adequate nursing care, and the inability to do so was found to influence their decision to leave nursing. Additionally, the participants perceived that they were at the “bottom” of the hierarchy. They also perceived that they had few opportunities for advancement and did not have access to power structures, which contributed to a lack of voice. The decision to leave was not easy for most of the participants, partially because their identity as a nurse was closely aligned with their personal identity. Several of the participants wanted to leave nursing to find passion in their work, which speaks to a need to reconceptualize the relationship between work and individual subjectivity. Thus, this study supports the feminist poststructural notion that social structures, such as gender, do affect identity development in respect to career decisions and work experiences. Based on the findings of this study, suggestions are offered both for further research and nursing education in an effort to potentially influence recruitment, practice, and retention in a profession that is already experiencing a shortage of workers.