Seeking Status: The Process of Becoming and Remaining an Emergency Nurse

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Understanding the process of becoming and remaining an emergency nurse is of great value in emergency nursing research and for nursing administration. If hospitals want to retain qualified emergency nurses, they must learn the process that nurses use when they choose to continue working within an emergency department. Research focusing on this process may inhibit turnover and simultaneously address the ED nursing shortage. The objectives of this study were to explore this process and highlight the strategies that nurses use throughout this process.


Using Grounded Theory methods, data were collected through semi-structured, open-ended interviews until data saturation occurred. The ages of the 7 participants ranged from 29 to 56 years, with ED nursing experience ranging from 1 to 17 years and nursing experience from 2 to 18 years.


Five phases emerged from data analysis using constant comparative analysis of 183 pages of transcripts, through coding, categorizing, and conceptualizing of phrases. These phases, each with subcategories, explained a process identified as Seeking Status. The 5 phases were “joining the troops,” “working in the trenches,” “passing muster,” “earning stripes,” and “looking ahead.” Passing muster emerged as the core category—that is, the one that best explained the process and connected the other conceptual categories in this process.


Processes and strategies to retain qualified emergency nurses are urgently needed. The findings from this study address only a broad understanding of ED and nursing roles. This study highlighted several possible avenues to advance nursing science in this area. For example, for nurses “working in the trenches,” it is important to undertake further research to determine factors that might help them adjust.

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