• self-esteem;
  • feedback;
  • negative evaluation;
  • criticism;
  • nursing education;
  • bullying;
  • stress

Background. Studies on Irish nursing and midwifery professions have demonstrated that stress and bullying are frequent problems that may lead to depression and low self-esteem. Self-esteem is linked to social anxiety and is therefore related to fear of negative evaluation. It is important to study nursing students' feelings about self-esteem and negative evaluation, and to assess whether or not both these constructs change as students progress through their preregistration education programme.

Aim. This study explored nursing students' perceived levels of self-esteem and their fear of negative evaluation prior to, and nearing the completion of, their 3-year preregistration programme.

Methods. A descriptive, quantitative, comparative survey design was used. All students in the first intake of 1995 in two general nursing schools in Southern Ireland agreed to take part (n = 72). A questionnaire developed from the Rosenberg Self-esteem Scale and the Watson and Friend Fear of Negative Evaluation Scale was used to collect data at the start of their programme and again 2 months before completion.

Results. In general, students' reported self-esteem rose as they neared the end of their education programme and their fear of negative evaluation decreased; however, their overall self-esteem levels at their highest were only average.

Conclusions. Many of the studies examining self-esteem have produced contradictory results. An examination of the organizational factors that contribute to self-esteem may increase our understanding of the phenomenon. Self-esteem is a complex, multifaceted phenomenon. While there is no single factor that can increase or decrease a person's self-esteem, this study has explored the potential impact of the fear of negative evaluation on self-esteem. Nursing students' self-esteem might be increased by expansion of intrinsic job characteristics, improving their job satisfaction and providing frequent positive feedback.