- Hershey, Jean L.
- Graduate Program:
- Adult Education
- Doctor of Education
- Document Type:
- Date of Defense:
- April 24, 2007
- Committee Members:
- Daniele D Flannery, Committee Chair/Co-Chair
Patricia Angelica Cranton, Committee Member
Samuel William Monismith, Committee Member
Dennis Ray Lott, Committee Member
- Associate Degree Graduates
Professional Identity; Nursing Students
- ABSTRACT This qualitative study used a hermeneutic phenomenological design to investigate the lived experience of becoming a professional nurse for associate degree nursing graduates. The study looked specifically at the process of acquiring a professional identity for associate degree nursing graduates. The theoretical frameworks of structural functionalism and reference group theory provided the lens which guided the study. Structural functionalism is a sociological perspective describing how groups reproduce themselves by creating members whose behaviors and values correspond to the established group norms. A reference group is the social group which an individual uses to define attitudes, beliefs, and values which the individual wishes to emulate and join. Semi-structured interviews were used to learn the essence of being socialized into the profession of nursing and taking on a professional nursing identity for the participants. The major finding which was revealed from this study was that taking on of a professional identity for the associate degree graduates occurred through an intermeshing of four processes. The processes include: bringing of one’s self; including past experiences and personality traits, to the educational programs; learning to become a nursing student; socializing into the professional nurse role; and internalizing the professional identity. This finding led to the creation of the Professional Nursing Identity Model. Additional findings include: family members within healthcare professions are instrumental in guiding individuals into the profession of nursing; nursing students assess the attitudes, skills, and behaviors of the professional nurses with whom they interact; personal development is a byproduct of professional development; and learning to balance school work and home life while a student is valuable practice for balancing similar expectations of the professional nurse. Based on these findings, implications for nursing and adult education are discussed. Included are suggestions for future research surrounding professional identity development.