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Keywords:

  • attitudes;
  • ethics;
  • nurse education;
  • psychology;
  • replication study;
  • survey designs

Abstract

Title. Valuing of altruism and honesty in nursing students: a two-decade replication study

Aim.  This paper reports a study investigating changes in the self-reported values of nursing students over the period 1983–2005 in the light of changes in student demography.

Background.  Nurses’ values have been studied by both qualitative and survey methods over half a century. Generally idealism and altruism are said to wane as a result of professional socialisation, whilst honesty has been rarely examined.

Method.  Building on an instrument designed by William Scott, further items were developed which addressed value orientations in a nursing context. Using a Likert scale and demographic items, a 1983 survey of three schools of nursing in England was repeated with a comparable population of students in 2005.

Findings.  Student valuing of altruism and honesty has changed in important ways in the intervening decades. Nursing students are now generally less altruistic (P = 0·01) but value honesty with patients a great deal more (P = 0·01) than their counterparts in 1983.

Conclusion.  The current situation, with older students having more domestic responsibilities and some students needing to have extra jobs besides their nursing course, seems to have led them to adopt a pragmatic approach. However, there are encouraging changes in the valuing of honesty with patients, which reflect in part students’ increased maturity and changed social attitudes to healthcare professional paternalism.