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Acquisition of a professional role: an empirical study of nursing students' professional self-images and role concepts Kariel, Patricia Ann Eells

Abstract

The purpose of the study was to examine selected aspects of the acquisition of a professional role and to determine what factors might be related to them. The sample consisted of 301 students in a school of nursing in a large general hospital in a Canadian metropolis. The four groups included entering, newly-capped, intermediate and near-graduating senior students. Data were collected by questionnaire. Two dependent variables were used: the student's professional self-image and the concept of the nurse's role adopted. Four components of the self-image were identified. It was hypothesized that, over time, students would think of themselves increasingly as nurses rather than as students; confidence in performing their role would increase; they would interact more socially with others in the institutional setting; and identification with graduate and student nurses would increase. The first three hypotheses were supported, the fourth was not. It was also hypothesized that, if all four components increased over time for the entire sample, they would also be related for individuals. For example, students who thought of themselves primarily as nurses would also be more confident, would interact more socially with others, and would identify more with other nurses. Statistical analyses using the Chi-square frequency test did not support this hypothesis. For the second dependent variable, the concept of the nurse's role adopted, two major concepts were identified: the advanced professional, emphasizing newer trends in the nursing profession, and traditional, favoring institutional values. It was hypothesized that beginning students would be more likely to give a higher rating than other groups to lay items, that newly-capped students would tend to rate highest those items which reflected the advanced professional concept, and that seniors would give higher ratings to traditional concepts. The trend found was opposite to that hypothesized. Students were asked to rate similar items with respect to Values, things which they believed it was important for nurses to do; Evaluation, criteria by which they believed they were evaluated; and Confidence, the degree to which the item made them feel confident as nurses. Advanced professional items were rated higher for Values than for the other two; traditional, lower. Individual students, however, were inconsistent in their ratings; no relationships were found among ratings on similar items for the three aspects. Other hypotheses suggested that various independent variables would be related to one or more elements of the two dependent-variables. Almost twenty independent variables were proposed. For example, it was hypothesized that students favoring advanced professional values would be more likely to select instructors as role models, and to rate classes such as Sociology, Psychology and Community Health high. None of the hypotheses was supported. The mass of negative findings can be interpreted so as to shed doubt upon some assumptions made by role theorists. Overall, although trends were discernible in the data when analyzed by groups, few relationships were found among attitudes expressed by individual students, who were consistently inconsistent. No factors were found which were related to the acceptance of items representing either an advanced professional or a traditional concept of the nurse's role. Because of the lack of significant relationships among items thought to be representative of each concept, it is probable that no such simple classification exists in the minds of students in the sample. The lack of relationship among elements of the self-concept also suggests that the notion of role as a unitary concept may not be valid.

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