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'Iíve got no idea': an ethnography of critical care nurses' nuanced and ambiguous professional identities in regional Australia


Belle, MJ and Cook, PS, 'I've got no idea': an ethnography of critical care nurses' nuanced and ambiguous professional identities in regional Australia, Health Sociology Review pp. 1-16. ISSN 1446-1242 (2022) [Refereed Article]

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DOI: doi:10.1080/14461242.2022.2091947


Historical sociological perspectives posit professional identity to emerge from socialisation and attainment of Ďtraitsí considered unique to and distinguishing of a profession. Such essentialist understandings, however, cannot account for group heterogeneity, nursesí lived experiences, nor the fluidity of professional and personal identity. This article conceptualises professional identity as being both individual and collective, influenced by context, involving subjective meaning-making, and membership to a specific professional group. Drawing on ethnographic data gathered through participant observation and semi-structured interviews with Critical Care Nurses in an Intensive Care Unit in regional Australia, we identify four themes that reveal different aspects of professional identity: conceptualising professional identity; professional identity as a title and legislative requirement; professional identity as qualifications and training; and professional identity as a social performance. The findings demonstrate that Critical Care Nurses hold multifaceted perceptions of professional identity. While they collectively distinguish their nursing training, knowledge, and practice from other nurses, they struggle to articulate what professional identity is, while creating boundaries between different forms of nursing education and qualifications to construct their professional identity. These uncertain and diverse meanings of professional identity contribute to nurse identity ambiguity, while also reflecting the necessity of flexible individual and collective nursing identities.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:professional identity, nursing, professionalism, ethnography, critical care nurses, group cohesion, sociology of health, sociology of professions, critical care
Research Division:Human Society
Research Group:Sociology
Research Field:Sociology of health
Objective Division:Law, Politics and Community Services
Objective Group:Work and labour market
Objective Field:Professions and professionalisation
UTAS Author:Belle, MJ (Dr Melissa Belle)
UTAS Author:Cook, PS (Dr Peta Cook)
ID Code:151236
Year Published:2022
Web of Science® Times Cited:2
Deposited By:Office of the School of Social Sciences
Deposited On:2022-07-26
Last Modified:2022-07-26

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