Professional or student identity and commitment? Comparing the experiences of nursing students with literature on student success

Liz Thomas, Elisabeth Hovdhaugen, Rachel Sweetman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Improving the rates of continuation and completion of nursing students is a priority to ensure there are sufficient qualified staff to deliver national healthcare services. In the literature, which is predominantly informed by research undertaken in traditional HE institutions with students studying conventional academic programmes, the development of a student identity and course commitment are identified as key components of persistence and success. This linear model assumes that student identity formation takes place during the transition into HE - and professional identities develop as graduates progress into the workplace. Qualitative research in the UK and Norway with nursing and midwifery students found that a strong desire to become a healthcare professional is often the starting point for enrolling in HE, rather than the culmination of the course. A strong future-facing professional identity and commitment sustain many students through the process of accessing and ‘enduring’ their nursing degree programmes that qualify them for practice. But
these programmes do little to nurture professional commitment and identity, which could be harnessed to help these students to successfully complete their nursing studies. Recognising the differences between these professionally-oriented, future-facing students, and those studying traditional degree programmes, should inform approaches to improve the continuation and success of nurses. Their learning experience needs to be affirming and nurturing of this emerging professional identity to allow students to overcome academic
and professional challenges they experience as they strive to become nurses, and allow them to fully embrace their professional identity.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages14
JournalTertiary Education and Management
Early online date19 Jan 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 19 Jan 2023

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s) 2023


  • nursing students
  • student identity
  • professional identity
  • Norway
  • England
  • retention
  • transition

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