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UBC Theses and Dissertations

"Who is that nurse?" : what it means to be and act as a registered nurse : the client’s perspective Leifso, Genelle Margaret Colleen


What does it mean to be and act as a registered nurse? This qualitative study examined the professional identity of the nurse from a client's perspective. Using interpretive description methodology and purposeful theoretical sampling, 10 informants participated in unstructured, open-ended interviews that were audiotaped, transcribed verbatim, and analysed. Findings revealed that, from the informants' perspective being and acting are not equal facets of the nurse's professional identity. Rather, the nurse's being is central, providing structure to and influencing the way that the nurse acts. To be a nurse is to be intrinsically motivated to care for another person. Uniquely expressed, the result of the nurse's personal history and natural talents, this motivation is the unique descriptor identifying suitable candidates for the profession. Evident in these individuals before their nursing education begins, it sustains them in a complex and difficult role requiring intellectual, emotional, and physical capabilities. Being a nurse is relational, imbued with great responsibility because of the nurse's consistent presence with the client. To act as a nurse is to be identifiably involved in a client-focussed endeavour. The nurse's acting is a consequence of the nurse's being, with attitudinal traits operationalised as professional attributes. Although clients value nurses' unique knowledge and believe that all nurses will be proficient in specific nursing competencies, without excellence in verbal and non-verbal communication something vital is missing. The nurse, easily recognisable through her bearing and approach towards the client, communicates professional pride and ability. The study findings suggest many implications for nursing education and practice— particularly recruitment and retention issues. Further research should explore variations in client perception related to age, culture, or perceptions that may change over time.

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