Help us sharing our research, consultation and experiences

Donate Now

The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

I am only a nurse: a biographical narrative study of a nurse's self-understanding and its implication for practice

Background: The personal is a vital part of professional nursing practice. From a psycho-social perspective, nurses produce and reproduce conceptions of the Self through experience. A literature search on nurses' self-understanding in a psycho-social perspective yields no results. Hence, the aim of this study was to investigate personal and professional experiences that may have formed the self-understanding of a nurse, and how this self-understanding may have influenced her professional practice. Methods: Using a single case approach, I conducted a Biographical Narrative Interview with a 50-year-old experienced Norwegian nurse. I asked the nurse to tell me the story of her life and how her work has affected her and possibly changed the way she saw herself. The overall aim of the interpretation was to understand the historically situated subjectivity in terms of the nurse's personal, social and professional constraints and chosen options. Results: The nurse's narrative of her life story made it possible to trace a common theme throughout her experiences, the experience of being 'only a nurse'. The nurse experienced a low status, as well as a downgrade in the competence needed to deliver quality care in professional relationships. She felt it difficult to identify with the experience of being on the bottom of the social ladder and to identify with the female, mothering ideal connected to nursing. She desired a better position, and wanted to identify with strong women. In contrast to reality, her self-understanding influenced her relationship with her patients, her professional pride and her further professional development. Conclusions: This study shows that the professional practice of a nurse was informed by her self-understanding. This study suggests that the individual nurse must be given the opportunity to explore her professional vulnerability based on the assumption that it is both personally and socially constituted. This study indicates that the exploration of a nurse's self-understanding is one way to contribute to professional development.