Date of Award

2018

Degree Name

Master of Nursing

First Supervisor

Associate Professor Kylie Russell

Second Supervisor

Dr Tracey Coventry

Abstract

This research investigating professional student nursing practice occurred at a private Catholic university in Western Australia. The objects of this university articulate the provision of education in the context of Catholic faith and values. The objects are further expressed through the university’s 10 graduate attributes, which every student should have achieved by graduation. These attributes aim to foster and grow the qualities of ethical practice, interpersonal skills, professionalism, specialist knowledge and skills to support local and global communities. Suggested university strategies for attaining these attributes include undertaking high-quality work-integrated learning and building strong and mutually beneficial relationships with industry partners to successfully meet the future workforce needs of industry and society. However, it has been acknowledged by the School of Nursing and Midwifery that assessment of these attributes in the Bachelor of Nursing clinical practice program is vague and nonspecific. Additionally, it has been recognised by the school that the assessment of nursing professionalism as a standalone construct, which holds many common characteristics to the graduate attributes, is not present in the current student clinical placement assessment tool. Attainment of these graduate attributes and professionalism in nursing practice can only be ensured through appropriate assessment that guides student practice and learning.

Nursing professionalism relates to the knowledge, skills, conduct, behaviour and attitudes of registered nurses when undertaking their role. The Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia requires a registered nurse to practice all duties in a competent, safe, ethical and professional manner, adhering to the Registered Nurse Standards for Practice, Code of Conduct for Nurses and International Council of Nurses’ Code of Ethics. Difficulties related to the assessment of professionalism have been anecdotally described as resulting from the disparity between the meaning of the term ‘professionalism’ to nurses and how it is applied, assessed and measured in clinical practice. Professionalism is a well-recognised term in the nursing profession, with the literature describing many commonly accepted qualities and attributes of this. However, the perception of professionalism in clinical practice is varied, subjective and contextually based. Unprofessional conduct in the clinical setting is diametrically opposed to professionalism, and can be time consuming to manage and obstructive to patient-centred healthcare goals.

In acknowledgement of these gaps in the school student assessment process, this study developed a professional practice competency to measure and assess this essential construct of nursing practice for Bachelor of Nursing students from a private Catholic university in Western Australia. It implemented an exploratory sequential mixedmethods approach with a two-phase design. Phase 1 used a Delphi panel to obtain consensus and face validity of criteria to measure nursing professionalism and the university graduate attributes. Phase 2 employed a table of specifications methodology, with clinical facilitators providing content validity for professional practice competency. It is envisaged that the developed professional practice competency, consisting of 33 statements, will assist undergraduate nursing students to gain valuable and timely insight into their own professional role and the university and clinical expectations, and subsequently allow adjustment and achievement of professional practice competency in a real-time context.

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