Exploring How New Registered Nurses Construct Professional Identity in Hospital Settings

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To describe and explore the experiences that contribute to the construction of professional identity in hospital nurses 1 to 3 years postgraduation from nursing school.


This qualitative study used in-depth interviewing and open-ended questions with a semistructured format. All interviews were audiotaped and transcribed. Twenty-one interviews were conducted with 16 participants. The researcher analyzed the data through the lens of symbolic interactionism.


The study identified various passage points as nurses progressed in establishing their professional identity in the first 3 years after graduation. These points required adaptation to stress to accomplish successful negotiation and included finding a niche, orientation, the conflict of caring, taking the licensure examination, becoming a charge nurse, and moving on. A sense of responsibility and the need for continual learning and perfection were inherent in all passage points.


The significance of this study rests in situational influences on the construction of identity, the need for balance and support in the practice environment, passage points in the first 3 years of practice, and the organizational need to support nursing empowerment and voice.

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