From uncertainty to belief and beyond: a phenomenological study exploring the first year experience of becoming a student nurse

Debbie Porteous, Alison Machin

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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As part of a high quality nursing student experience within Higher Education there is a need to access the voice of the student. By listening to the students, greater clarity and understanding from the students' perspective is proposed. The focus of this research is within the first year of an undergraduate nursing programme. This thesis gives insight into the experiences and perceptions of undergraduate nursing students' transition into Higher Education and professional transformation, within the first year of a three year proframme. In addition, the research sought to illuminate the participants' personal learning journeys and experiences. There is a dearth of literature addressing various aspects of the first year student experience and minimal literature which represents the student voice. The first year experience is a complex and multifaceted area of study. This complexity is related to the Higher Education organisational processes that are required to enable the student to succeed and the amount of personal investment by each student who enters programmes of learning within a university setting. It has been identified that the first year is the most critical to ensuring that students engage with programmes of learning and achieve both academically and professionally (Trotter and Roberts 2006). To develop insight into the learner's journey a theoretical framework is constructed from within an interpretive paradigm. Hermeneutic phenomenology was selected as a suitable methodology for this research, informed by the work of Max van Manen (1990). The use of hermeneutic phenomenology enable the exploration of participants' experiences. The participants in this research were representative of a typical nursing cohort's profile and, therefore, provided the ideal means of investigating the student nurse experience within the first year. Ten student nurses volunteered to participate in this research and data was collected over a period of one year by use of repeated semi-structured interviews and collection of critical incidents using digital voice recorders. Data was analysed using phenomenological and hermeneutic strategies involving in-depth, iterative reading and interpretation to identify themes in the data. Findings from this research identify that the students have developed skills to survive but there was considerable variation in the student experience which impacted on their motivaton and behaviour. A key finding was the ability of students to develop their own skills of coping to deal with the demands of academic life and those of the practice settings. The skills of self-reliance and self efficacy are evident in the findings and are explored in relation to professional transformation.
Original languageEnglish
  • Unsworth, John, Supervisor
Place of PublicationNewcastle upon Tyne
Publication statusSubmitted - Dec 2015


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