Study seeks to define nursing’s professional identity

Dr. Tullamora Landis of the WSU College of Nursing led a national study on the perceptions of professional identity in nursing, which recently was published in the journal Nurse Educator. File photo.
Dr. Tullamora Landis of the WSU College of Nursing led a national study on the perceptions of professional identity in nursing, which recently was published in the journal Nurse Educator. File photo.
Dr. Tullamora Landis portrait
Dr. Tullamora Landis of the WSU College of Nursing led a national study on the perceptions of professional identity in nursing, which recently was published in the journal Nurse Educator. File photo.

Assistant Professor Tullamora Landis of the Washington State University College of Nursing led a study published recently in the journal Nurse Educator on perceptions of professional identity in nursing.  

Professional identity, described as someone thinking, acting and feeling like a nurse, is “a frequent topic in regulatory, educational and practice environments,” the study notes. Yet the definition of professionalism in nursing is unclear.  

Nurturing professional identity was one of the main recommendations from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching in a study on preparing various professions for practice.  

In response, 50 nurse leaders in practice, education and regulation from the United States and Canada gathered in 2018 to begin defining professional identity in nursing. A second group refined those recommendations in 2019. The study surveyed almost 1,200 nurse educators using a new professional identity scale developed by the researchers.  

The result was four key elements of professional nursing identity: values and ethics, knowledge, leadership and professional comportment. Each of those “domains” had a group of attributes that were ranked “moderately important” or “very important” by participants.  

For example, under values and ethics, the attributes deemed important by 98% or more of respondents were integrity, caring and empathy.  

The attributes deemed most important overall were being an effective communicator (99.9%), integrity, (99.8%) and being trustworthy (99.8%). The domain with the most items identified as moderately to very important was professional comportment, with examples including being respectful, patient-centered, self-aware, collaborative and resilient.   

The study’s authors noted that diversity and inclusivity did not make the cutoff for important attributes, but the groups included them because other studies have demonstrated their importance in professional identity development.  

The study, which was highlighted recently by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, recommends that nurse educators provide students with opportunities to practice some of the important attributes.  

In the realm of professional comportment, for example, a nursing program might use role-playing or simulation activities that reinforce collaboration and teamwork, or resilience-building exercises.  

The next steps are to refine and test the lists with new participants, and for nursing educators to integrate the important attributes into courses, simulation and curricular standards, the study said.  

Said Landis, the study’s lead author, “During the last two years of the pandemic, the profession of nursing has been challenged like never before, and nurses have been pushed to their limits. We need to continue to focus on supporting the professional identity of nursing and ensure that nurses are recognized as valued members of the health care team.”  

Study: “National Study of Nursing Faculty and Administrators’ Perceptions of Professional Identity in Nursing,” Nurse Educator. By Tullamora Landis, PhD, RN-BC, CNL; Nelda Godfrey, PhD, ACNS-BC, RN, FAAN, ANEF; Celestina Barbosa-Leiker, PhD; Cynthia Clark, PhD, RN, ANEF, FAAN; Janice G. Brewington, PhD, RN, FAAN; M. Lindell Joseph, PhD, RN, FAAN, FAONL; Susan Luparell, PhD, RN, CNE, ANEF; Beth Cusatis Phillips, PhD, RN, CNE, CHSE; Kristen D. Priddy, PhD, RN, CNS; and Kary Anne Weybrew, MSN, RN.