An Ethnography Study to Discover Shared Patterns of Beliefs, Values, Behaviors, Attitudes, and Language of how do preceptors socialize undergraduate nursing students into the profession of nursing

Introduction to Ethnography

An ethnographic study is one that focuses on human society and culture. The product of ethnographic research usually is a rich and holistic description of the culture under study (Polit & Beck, 2004). Cultural background serves as an essential component as the knowledge people have acquired structures their worldview and behavior. This means much of what we believe, think, and do; both consciously and unconsciously is determined by a person’s cultural background (Spector, 2009). Participant observation is based on living among the people under study for a lengthy period, usually a year, and gathering data through continuous involvement in their lives and activities.

The culture of nursing has a profound influence on the behaviors of practicing nurses and shapes basic traditions of what is acceptable and unacceptable nursing practices. Dr. Leininger described nursing culture as “the learned and transmitted lifeways, values, symbols, patterns, and normative practices of members of the nursing profession of a particular society. A subculture of nursing refers to a subgroup of nurses who show distinctive values and lifeways that differ from the dominant or mainstream culture of nursing” (Leininger, 1994, p. 18).

The nurse preceptor is a nurse who teaches and supports the student nurse and is seen as pivotal to student learning within the clinical environment. Paton (2010) explained that nurse preceptors acquire practical skills and expertise in teaching which they pass on from their personal achievements gained through constant intellectual struggle and self-critical reflection.  Thompson-Isherwood, and Thirsk (2009) describe nurse preceptors as using a unique set of teaching skills and expertise that goes beyond clinical expertise and relational skills. In addition, preceptors teach from a repertoire of skills and knowledge acquired through their years of experience which can be conceptualized as a hidden curriculum.

This hidden curriculum is part of the nursing culture that is used to prepare nurses for professional behaviors and practices (Allan, Smith, & O’Driscoll, 2011). This socialization process familiarizes the new nurse to the norms, beliefs, and values of professional nursing within the specific health care culture of the hospital and university community. This illegitimate curriculum (Billings & Halstead, 2012) is known and actively taught by preceptors; yet, it is not evaluated because descriptors of the behaviors are lacking. In light of the evidence, a gap exists in interviewing and observing nurse preceptors on how they teach professional socialization to undergraduate nurses. Therefore, the researchable problem is a need to observe and interview nurse preceptors to obtain a better understanding of their shared patterns of beliefs, values, behaviors, attitudes, and language in how they socialize undergraduate nursing students into the profession of nursing.

Purpose Statement

The purpose of the proposed ethnographic study is to gain deep and rich descriptions of shared behaviors, values, attitudes, and language of nurse preceptors in exploring how they socialize undergraduate nursing students into the profession of nursing. Uncovering the observed behavior, beliefs, values, attitudes and language patterns of nurse preceptors will provide valuable insight into this hidden curriculum that can help with understanding how undergraduate nurses are socialized into the nursing culture and professional practice.

 Central Research Question

What are the shared patterns of beliefs, values, behaviors, attitudes, and language used by nurse preceptors to socialize undergraduate nursing students into the profession of nursing?

Participants and Justification

The participants in this proposed ethnography study consist of nurse preceptor culture-sharing groups, and the data collection is primarily fulfilled through observation and focus groups. The major considerations for sampling are considered to be people, context, and time (Jeffrey & Troman, 2004). Thirteen nurse preceptors will be included during the fieldwork period. Time spent in the field will be guided by the selective intermittent time mode to gain depth. This mode, as explained by Jeffrey and Troman (2004), is one where the length of time spent doing the research is longer and could range from three months to two years; however, it has a flexible approach to the frequency of site visits.

The study will be concentrated to one surgical suite and a surgical ward at the VA hospital and Oklahoma University hospital. Both wards take at least 20 undergraduate nursing students from year 1 and 3 annually for clinical practice ranging from 5 to 10 weeks. A focus sampling of 10 preceptors will be performed for the focus group interviews to maximize information gathering. According to McLafferty (2004), the focus group interview places emphasis on interaction between participants with a common frame of reference that is particularly useful for reflecting on the social realities of a cultural group through direct access to the language and concepts which structure participants’ experiences.

The ethnographic research design is the best fit for the research intentions because the research topic is embedded in cultural complexities and the researcher will want to understand cultural reality from the perspectives of the participants. It is the intention of this study to obtain an understanding of shared behaviors, values, attitudes, and language use by nurse preceptors to socialize undergraduate nursing students into the culture and profession of nursing. The findings that emerge can assist nurse educators to design curriculums to close the practice –theory gap in preparing nursing students with realistic expectations of their roles as a professional nurse.

I am fascinated with the ethnography research design because I am open-minded and enjoy learning new perspectives and ways of knowing. Given ample time, I would enjoy studying the clinical insights, techniques, and strategies that nurse preceptors gain through their extensive clinical experiences which are not part of the official academic curriculum. By exploring these shared experiences and understanding what these nurses do, say, and believe, will assist to understand unwritten rules guiding interactions and communications to change the phrase “nurses eat their young” to ‘nurses teach their young’.

How does ethnography differ from the other qualitative designs?

A big difference is the gathering of data to answer the research question. This means the researcher becomes immersed within the culture listening, taking notes, observing, and actively participate in the day-day life of the group; thus, becoming part of the community. Another difference between ethnography and other qualitative research designs is the length of time it takes to complete the research and reports. The report, according to Lodico et al. (2010) often takes the form of a book.

Leave a Reply