Which degree? : the influence of perceptions of professional nursing issues and professionalism on course selection.
The research investigated nurses' choice of post-registration degree at a particular
institution of higher education in order to address the unexpected popularity of the BSc
in Health Studies. In particular, it sought to examine choice of degree against the
background of changes in professionalism.
The literature review covered the development of nursing and nursing education,
professionalism, professionalisation, the concept of occupational closure and relevant
A combination of quantitative and qualitative methods was used for the investigation.
Analysis of questionnaire data revealed differences between community and hospitalbased
nurses. It confirmed that community nurses selected the Health Studies course
originally designed for them as a rational `follow-on' from courses that led to their
professional recognition and qualification to practice community nursing. Hospital
nurses were almost evenly distributed across the two courses and were revealed to be of
critical interest. Those on the Nursing Studies course conformed to expectations and
might be seen as relatively passive in attitude, whereas Health Studies participants were
cosmopolitan, held stronger views about their choice of degree and made a `deviant' but
not illogical choice of course.
The second, qualitative stage, used in-depth interviews of 15 hospital nurses. Hitherto
unsuspected relationships were discovered between the academic content of courses
chosen by students and their orientation, values and attitudes towards nursing per se and
their perceptions of the present and future status of the professionalisation of nursing.
Health Studies participants were more likely to reject the utility of nursing theory and
models, to feel more negative about nursing currently and more pessimistic about the
future than their Nursing Studies degree counterparts. Hospital nurses on the two
courses appeared to espouse different models of professionalism, with Nursing Studies
participants aligned with the altruistic `functionalist' model in contrast to their Health
Studies counterparts who leaned towards conflict models