Crossing the boundaries — experiences of neophyte nurses


  • Ann Seed RGN DipN RNT Cert Ed BSc PhD

    Corresponding author
    1. Senior Lecturer, School of Human and Health Sciences, The University of Huddersfield, Queensgate, Huddersfield, England
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Dr A Seed, 1 The Woodlands, Palace House Road, Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire HX7 6JP England


Boundaries exist that dictate socially acceptable degrees of bodily exposure and touch Certain groups, for example nurses, appear to undertake emotionally charged work where they are called upon to cross these boundaries This paper relates the experience of a student nurse cohort as they ‘crossed the boundaries’ The students' views were collected by participant observation and interview, and analysed by employing grounded theory Since the study was longitudinal the findings reflect how the neophytes’ views changed with the passage of time Early in their course students found giving intimate care stressful, while caring for those of the opposite sex created particular difficulties Both male and female students developed coping strategies, for example ‘ways of seeing’ those they nursed Students maintained that the nature of their work led others to view them in certain ways In some instances female students might be seen as sexually available by men for whom they cared, however, with experience they dealt effectively with sexual advances The cohort considered that wearing a uniform on the one hand protected and legitimized them in crossing boundaries, but on the other it signalled their occupation to others which on occasions was something they might wish to conceal These findings provide insights into the notion of crossing social boundaries, an area which warrants further investigation, since it involves an important aspect of caring (Names of students cited in this paper are pseudonyms)