The Professional Nurse in Relation to Academic Nursing Education
The increasing demands on the nurse’s competence in the society are reflected in laws and ordinances as well as in the transition of the nursing education to universities. The overall aim of this thesis was to illuminate, describe and understand nurses’ professional awareness in relation to academic nursing education.
The longitudinal studies I and II of the thesis included novice nursing students (n= 164/163), senior students (n=123/124), and nurses three to five years after graduating (n=83/82). Study III of the thesis covered a nationally random selection of nurses graduated during four different years before and after the implementation of the academic education (n=289). Study IV focused on senior students (n=155). The data were collected by means of three questionnaires: open questions where the respondents were asked to describe their views of a good nurse and a bad nurse (I); a scale for assessing the professional self in relation to others (modified Nurse Self Description Form) (II); and finally, a questionnaire designed to asses the nurses’ (III) and the students’ (IV) attitudes to and awareness of research within nursing (as developed in study III). The data were analysed by means of content analysis (I) and parametric and non-parametric statistical methods (II, III, IV), and factor analysis (III).
The result was that the characteristic of a good nurse ”to do good for others” emerged strongly and retained its dominant position throughout the education and beyond. ”To be competent and skilled” was also highly favoured and gained ground during and after the training. ”To have professional courage and pride” and ”to seek professional development” were considerably less prominent but increased slightly in importance over time (I). The professional self in relation to others in similar situations were generally rated as both strong among students and experienced nurses (II). Also in this respect there was an emphasis on the aspect of doing good for others. The professional self grew stronger over time in the areas of drive, objectivity, flexibility, ability to teach, ability to communicate and sociability, whereas the desire to contribute through research and knowledge mastery decreased over time (II). The process of developing into an experienced nurse, however, entailed increased awareness of the complexity of the nursing profession. The instruments for measuring attitudes to nursing research were validated through factor analysis, which generated seven factors termed ”research language,” ”need of research knowledge,” ”participation,” ”the profession,” ”meaningfulness,” ”study literature,” and ”developing–resources” (III). Nurses (III) as well as students (IV) expressed a positive attitude to nursing research and its application to the nursing profession. However, the nurses in particular stated that they seldom read scientific journals and seldom applied nursing research in their daily work.
To sum up, the research in this thesis shows that students and nurses only to a moderate extent displayed the professional awareness that the academic nursing education aims for. The traditional image of a good nurse was the most clearly manifested form of awareness, whereas insufficient awareness was registered in areas related to own responsibility for research-based practice. The result indicates a need for further collaboration between the nursing education and the health care sector, as well as for academically highly qualified nurses as resource persons in nursing practice, to support quality development in nursing, and serve as role models for students.