Whither nursing? Discourses underlying the attribution of master’s level performance in nursing
Aim. Drawing upon the selected findings from a multidisciplinary study that sought to explore the meaning of master’s level performance in health professional practice, the characteristics which nurse educators attributed to the practice of master’s level nursing graduates are analysed to reveal underlying discourses.
Background. Although master’s level programmes for nurses have been available in the United Kingdom (UK) for the past three decades and current heath policy directives link master’s level qualifications with senior clinical nursing roles, the contribution that master’s level education might make to the future direction of nursing is unclear.
Research design and methods. In-depth interviews were undertaken with a purposive sample of 18 nurse lecturers drawn from eight universities in the UK who were responsible for master’s level programmes in nursing. The interview agenda explored participants’ perspectives of the characteristics of master’s level performance. Drawing upon the methodology of discourse analysis, interview transcripts were interpreted in such a way as to show the implicit discourses underlying the participants’ claims regarding their graduate’s attributes of professional practice.
Findings. The characteristics attributed to master’s graduates were categorized under (a) cognitive competencies, (b) practice-related competencies, (c) research orientation and (d) personal dynamism. However, these attributions are not empirical generalizations, developed inductively. Rather, they draw on socially available discourses regarding the future direction of the profession.
Conclusion. The nurse educators drew on the following socially available discourses: (a) a discourse in which nursing is construed as involving great competence in practice, but without radicality of thought. Associated with this is a pervasive rhetoric of pragmatism; (b) a discourse of interprofessional practice in which nursing has a role of leadership. This is associated with a view of the location and power of nursing within the structure of the National Health Service and (c) notably lacking were discourses of care-giving, and of academic/intellectual aspiration. The implications of these discourses for the future direction of nursing are considered.