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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The development of personal empowerment : a qualitative study of the experience of master’s nursing student Chow, Linda Jane Hong


The development of personal empowerment in nursing students is thought to be a critical element not only in the promotion of a positive personal and professional self-image among graduate nurses, but also in the advancement of the nursing profession. This study was designed to explore and describe the experiences of master's nursing students with the aim of adding to the knowledge and understanding of the development of personal empowerment in graduate level nursing education. The qualitative method of ethnography was used to conduct this study. Data were collected through formal interviews, informal interviews, and observations of master's nursing students within the settings related to teaching/learning experiences. The majority of the data were collected through 27 semi-structured interviews that were conducted with 13 informants. Ten of these informants were full-time, currently-enrolled students, and three of the informants were full-time students who had graduated from the program with the past year. Data collection and analysis were conducted simultaneously. The process of data analysis gave rise to themes that were clarified and validated by the informants and gave direction to the construction of the informants' accounts of their experiences. All of the students described themselves as having been personally empowered, to varying degrees, as a result of their experiences in the master's nursing program. They perceived that they had acquired knowledge and skills that would contribute to the achievement of their professional goals. Further, by being successful in the program, they had developed a positive self-concept that was associated with a sense of being able to take control under difficult circumstances and overcome adversity. However, most of the informant also perceived that the level to which they had been empowered was limited by the excessive pain of some of their experiences in the program. Often, these negative experiences tended to overshadow the more positive experiences and to color the students' perceptions of their experiences as master's nursing students in a negative way. The data revealed that the development of personal empowerment is, ultimately, the result of a collaborative effort between and among master's nursing students and nursing faculty. First, students, themselves, have the capacity to promote their own sense of personal empowerment through constructive adaptive strategies directed toward acquiring knowledge and skills and toward coping with adversity. These strategies often necessitate reflection on personal beliefs, values, and assumptions; they often require a shift in students' perceptions of self in relation to the experience of being a master's nursing student. Second, supportive peer relationships, build on mutual trust and respect, are important in promoting both professional and personal growth. And third, the nursing faculty play a critical role instructuring learning experiences and fostering collegial, caring relationships that nurture the students' development of personal empowerment. The research findings have implications for nursing education and nursing research such that the development of personal empowerment in nursing education will be enhanced.

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