Exploring nurse learner wastage/persistence using a discursive approach: towards a theoretical understanding of the subject


Mehul Kotecha,
Faculty of Health (Erlang House),
South Bank University,
103 Borough Road,
London SE1 0AA,
E-mail: kotechma@sbu.ac.uk


Rationale and aims of the study.  This article summarizes the findings of an exploratory study of nurse learner wastage/persistence conducted in England between 1996 and 2000. Given the lack of theorizing in much of the literature on nurse learner wastage/persistence, this study sought to generate a theoretical standpoint from which to explore voluntary nurse learner wastage.

Design/Methods.  The theoretical standpoint developed drew together the theme of integration, derived from the work of Tinto, with the themes of identity and discourses, as conceptualized by Foucault. Accordingly, integration was defined in terms of how well the learner was able to subscribe to the subjectivities made available by the institutional discourses. One of the chief strengths of this approach was that it facilitated an understanding of the interaction between the individual and the institution in relation to wastage/persistence. A multiple case study strategy was used which focused on learners in the first year of a Project 2000 course. The case study strategy utilized a range of qualitative research methods.

Findings and conclusion.  The findings indicated that the institution was constituted by two major discourses: the ‘apprentice’ discourse and the ‘autonomous’ discourse. It was found that the stayers were much more integrated into the institution, hence they were able to persist on the course, by virtue of being able to manage the contradictions in their identity as a nurse and a learner that these two discourses engendered.