Narrative and aesthetic analysis of non-nurse college graduates journals on their entry into nursing

Date of Completion

January 2004


Health Sciences, Education|Health Sciences, Nursing




This project analyzed 132 journals written by non-nurse college graduates during their nascent journey into the nursing profession. The process of journaling about their experiences entering nursing and reflecting on them has been encouraged as a creative outlet for expression and a means to generate meaning from these experiences (Pellico & Bailey, 2003). Student journaling provided an opportunity for what has been described as an aesthetic experience (Chinn, Maeve & Bostick, 1997). As such, the data were analyzed by merging two methods, that of narrative analysis based upon the work of Riessman (1993) and aesthetic criticism based upon the work of Chinn, Maeve, & Bostick (1997). Results revealed four archetypes: student nurse as hero, sentry, ministering angel, and overwhelmed novice. Six themes noted included: forgive and remember, intimacy and intensity, silence and voice, routines and rituals, bravery and bearing witness, and masquerading and identifying. The stories revealed ten critical elements when learning to become a nurse. The ten included learning: to understand the language of medicine, to provide physical care; technical knowledge; communication skills; to become a keen observer; that nursing is hard work in general and specifically difficult in an accelerated program; to become vulnerable in the educational process; to deal with sadness, suffering, and inequities; to deal with power disparities; and to advocate for themselves and patients. Critical challenges for students in learning to be a nurse were to become vulnerable and learning how to learn in an accelerated program. Specific learning involved three domains, scientific knowledge, technical knowledge, and affective knowledge. Personal strengths, pivotal moments, and roles others played were identified. Interpretations of findings, implications for education, research, and practice as well as limitations of the study were addressed. Specific implications addressed included: the nearly universal experience of identifying patients as loved ones, deeply felt effects of student suffering and vulnerability, and the power of narrative to help define and identify as nurses. Concerns over recent dramatic increases of these programs without discussion of add-on costs needed to create positive learning environments is included, as well as issues related to grading of these personal reflections. ^