From being a nurse to becoming a 'different' doctor

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Journal Article

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McLean, M. (2016). From being a nurse to becoming a 'different' doctor. Advances in Health Sciences Education, 1-23.

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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016


1382-4996 print, 1573-1677 online


Using interpretative phenomenological analysis to make meaning of the experiences of three highly qualified registered nurses who had enrolled in an undergraduate medical programme, this study provides insight into their personal journeys of wanting to become ‘different’ doctors. In so doing, they conceptualised their future selves as adding clinical reasoning and diagnostic skills to the patient-centred caring ethic of their nursing practice, becoming a multi-skilled community member or helping to fix the health care culture. By customising their identities, e.g. by splinting (aligning with their stronger nursing identity), by enriching current nursing practice with newly acquired theory as medical students or by patching a perceived deficiency (i.e. patient-centredness) in medicine, they tailored their identities. Their journeys had, however, not been the natural progression they had anticipated, threatened by perceived and/or real intrinsic (e.g. working as nurses whilst studying medicine) and extrinsic (e.g. interprofessional rivalry) factors. Rather than being accepted as legitimate newcomers to the medical profession, the women sometimes felt like intruders. Some nursing colleagues accused them of desertion. In response, they generally withheld their identities as nurses or medical students, compartmentalising their group membership. This study has highlighted the role of personal (e.g. prior experience; agency; resilience; personality) and contextual factors in ‘becoming’ a doctor. A recommendation emerging from this study is the need for interprofessional learning in the medical curriculum to cultivate a health care culture of collaboration rather than competition. Future research is required in terms of how allied health professionals transition to medicine.

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