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Navigating the second-year landscape: How student nurses construct an identity and engage with knowledge in the second year of an undergraduate degree

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

  • Karen Connor
Publication date2021
Number of pages211
Awarding Institution
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This thesis focuses on the second year of the undergraduate degree in nursing and how student nurses navigate the contexts of both higher education (HE) and clinical practice environments.
In recent years there has been an increasing interest in the second year of study, however most studies have focused on academic grades and performance and the HE environment, with a general lack of research in nurse education and the clinical learning environment.
Using a qualitative longitudinal design and a sample of eleven pre-registration nurses who were enrolled in one higher education institution (HEI) in the United Kingdom (UK), data were generated and analysed at three points during the students second year of study.
A constructivist grounded theory methodology informed the study, enabling an examination of the social learning environments students engage with and the contextualised processes involved.
Data analysis uncovered two identifiable processes: constructing a nursing identity and engaging with knowledge, and these were further examined using two theoretical perspectives. Firstly, symbolic interactionism which helped explain how students act in different situations and why, based on the meanings they ascribe to those situations; secondly social realism which enabled an exploration of the social conditions underpinning knowledge and how knowledge is structured in the curriculum and pedagogic practices.
The outcomes of the study indicate a second-year experience whereby students are required to negotiate a landscape in which identity and knowledge are: ingrained in disciplinary situated practices; influenced and constrained by context; shaped by common understandings and expectations embedded in learning environments; and conveyed in implicit and explicit discourses.
The study contributes to knowledge by providing an insight into how students experience the second-year journey, how they transition between different learning contexts and the symbolic resources they utilise to make sense of different situations.