The meaning of nurses' work: A descriptive study of values fundamental to professional identity in nursing

May Solveig Fagermoen, University of Rhode Island

Abstract

The main research question addressed in this descriptive study was "What are the values underlying nurses' professional identity as expressed through what is meaningful in nurses' work?" This question was addressed in a two-phase study: The first phase was a survey of 767 randomly selected nurses with one, five, and ten years of experience in nursing responding to selected background questions and an open-ended question about meaning in nurses' work; and in the second phase, data on work-meaning were obtained from a convenience sample of six nurses from written descriptions of exemplary meaningful patient-situations and in-depth focused interviews eliciting nurses' stories about providing care to patients and professional development.^ Content analysis of survey-data revealed that the nurses held both other-oriented and self-oriented values, i.e., moral and work values. Human dignity and altruism were the most prominent moral values, whereas the most significant work-values were intellectual and personal stimulation. New graduates mentioned significantly more often moral process values (Chi-square 6.171, p$<$.05) and less often extrinsic work values (Chi-square 7.713, p$<$.05) compared to older nurses. In the oldest cohort, male nurses expressed extrinsic work values more often than female nurses (Chi-square 11.802, p$<$.05). In the total sample, male nurses mentioned less often moral process-values compared to female nurses (Chi-square 18.964, p$<$.0l).^ The interview-data, analyzed by means of hermeneutic and narrative analysis, revealed a greater diversity in value-expressions compared to the survey-data. Altruism, the moral orientation of care was the overall philosophy and human dignity appeared as a core value. The additional values, security, integrity, personhood, being a fellow human, autonomy, privacy, reciprocal trust, hope, and general humanity, all appeared to be linked to human dignity either by arising from it and/or being aimed at preserving this basic value.^ The interactive relationship with patients/relatives and colleagues provided the main sources of work-meaning and affected professional development. The nurses experienced meaninglessness when they could not give the care patients needed. The description of values comprising nurses' professional identity provided in this study has implications for the understanding of nurses' job satisfaction and nursing ethics. ^

Subject Area

Philosophy|Health Sciences, Nursing|Psychology, Industrial

Recommended Citation

May Solveig Fagermoen, "The meaning of nurses' work: A descriptive study of values fundamental to professional identity in nursing" (1995). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI9601843.
http://digitalcommons.uri.edu/dissertations/AAI9601843

Share

COinS