Understanding the influences on self-confidence among first-year undergraduate nursing students in Ireland

J Adv Nurs. 2013 Jan;69(1):145-57. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2648.2012.06001.x. Epub 2012 Apr 4.


Aim: To report a mixed-methods study of the development of self-confidence in Irish nursing students undertaking the first year of an undergraduate nursing programme.

Background: Self-confidence underpins nurses' competence to carry out care effectively, yet there is little empirical evidence of how this attribute is fostered in pre-registration preparation. There is an assumption, however, that self-confidence develops independently and spontaneously.

Design: A sequential, mixed methods three-phase design was used.

Method: The design involved pretest and posttest measurements of self-confidence, focus group interviews, a student self-evaluation questionnaire and analysis of the relevant curriculum content. Data were collected between September 2007-April 2008 and sampling was from three cohorts of students at three different Institutes of Technology in Ireland. Data collection matched the nature of the data, including descriptive, non-inferential statistics and qualitative content analysis.

Results: There was considerable variation in the amount and nature of theoretical preparation. Factors in clinical practice exerted the most influence. Self-confidence fluctuated during the first clinical placement and as students' self-confidence developed, simultaneously, motivation towards academic achievement increased. Conversely, self-confidence was quickly eroded by poor preceptor attitudes, lack of communication, and feeling undervalued.

Conclusion: The development of self-confidence is complex and multi-factorial. This study offers further understanding of facilitators and barriers that may be relevant elsewhere in promoting student nurses' developing self-confidence. The development of self-confidence must be recognized as a central tenet for the design and delivery of undergraduate programmes.

MeSH terms

  • Cohort Studies
  • Humans
  • Ireland
  • Self Concept*
  • Students, Nursing / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires