• nurses;
  • narratives;
  • professional personhood;
  • gender;
  • race


An ethnographic study was conducted to explore how nurses construe and understand their professional culture and their professional personhood. The sample was 36 nurses ranging in age from 26 to 63 (12 African American women, 11 White women, 13 men 12 White and 1 Caribbean Islander). Data were gathered through participant observation, audiotaped individual conversations, a process of seven consecutive group sessions, and short narratives written by the nurses in group sessions. The data were analyzed: (a) by a coding system that focused on the formal and informal roles, rules, and relationships in work and school settings; and (b) by examining the changes in participants' narratives about their professional identity during the process of the group meetings. All the nurses in the sample had been profoundly affected by the socially accepted “feminine” images of nursing. The findings also revealed racial issues in the nursing profession. The implications of this study point to the need for new models of nursing education and nursing leadership to overcome old images and to make nursing attractive to those from diverse backgrounds. © 2003 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Res Nurs Health 26:351–365, 2003