Values in nursing students and professionals: An exploratory comparative study

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Abstract

Background:

Many studies have explored personal values in nursing, but none has assessed whether the predictions made by the theory of intergenerational value change are true for the different generations of nursing professionals and students. This theory predicts a shift in those personal values held by younger generations towards ones focussed on self-expression.

Research question:

The purpose of the study was to identify intergenerational differences in personal values among nursing professionals and nursing students and to determine whether generational value profiles fit the predictions made by the theory.

Research design:

An exploratory comparative design with a cross-sectional survey method was used.

Participants and research context:

Participants were recruited from four public hospitals and 10 Primary Care Centres in medium-size cities in Spain. A sample of 589 nurses and 2295 nursing students participated in the study. An open survey method was used to collect data that were classified grouping reported values into categories following a method of value lexicon construction and analysed by contingency tables with Pearson's χ2 and standardized residuals.

Ethical considerations:

Approval to conduct the study was obtained from the Deans of the nursing schools and the Directors of Nursing of the institutions. Anonymity was guaranteed, participation was voluntary and participants were informed of the purpose of the study.

Findings:

The results can be synthesized in two age-related trends in the reporting of values among three groups of participants. First, among younger nurses and students, some nursing core values (e.g. ethical and professional) decreased in importance, while other values centred on social relationships and personal well-being increased.

Discussion and Conclusion:

This study shows intergenerational change in personal values among both nursing students and young nursing professionals. Findings suggest the need to pay more attention to value training and professional socialization during the schooling period.

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