Beginning students' definitions of nursing: an inductive framework of professional identity

J Nurs Educ. 2003 Jul;42(7):311-7.


Nursing identity is a developmental process that evolves throughout professional nurses' careers. Educational systems that prepare nurses include experiences that are important in the early development of nursing identity. Therefore, faculty in nursing programs are interested in understanding how their students perceive and define professional identity. For this study, a qualitative design was selected to explore students' early beliefs and concepts about nursing. Data were collected on the students' first day of the nursing program using the open-ended question, "What is your definition of nursing?" Using a qualitative descriptive approach, thematic analyses of the data are provided. Results revealed an inductive framework of professional nursing identity based on students' descriptions and definitions of nursing. These results demonstrate that nursing students come to an educational program with more than a rudimentary conception of professional identity. Use of these data may lead to opportunities to improve nursing students' educational experiences and foster the development of professional identity. Faculty can use knowledge of students' definitions of nursing to enrich student learning.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Education, Nursing, Baccalaureate
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Nursing*
  • Models, Psychological*
  • Nurse's Role*
  • Nursing Education Research
  • Nursing Methodology Research
  • Professional Competence
  • Qualitative Research
  • Social Identification*
  • Southwestern United States
  • Students, Nursing / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires