Aim. To report a mixed-methods study of the development of self-confidence in Irish nursing students undertaking the first year of an undergraduate nursing programme.
Background. Self-confidence underpins nurses’ competence to carry out care effectively, yet there is little empirical evidence of how this attribute is fostered in pre-registration preparation. There is an assumption, however, that self-confidence develops independently and spontaneously.
Design. A sequential, mixed methods three-phase design was used.
Method. The design involved pretest and posttest measurements of self-confidence, focus group interviews, a student self-evaluation questionnaire and analysis of the relevant curriculum content. Data were collected between September 2007–April 2008 and sampling was from three cohorts of students at three different Institutes of Technology in Ireland. Data collection matched the nature of the data, including descriptive, non-inferential statistics and qualitative content analysis.
Results. There was considerable variation in the amount and nature of theoretical preparation. Factors in clinical practice exerted the most influence. Self-confidence fluctuated during the first clinical placement and as students’ self-confidence developed, simultaneously, motivation towards academic achievement increased. Conversely, self-confidence was quickly eroded by poor preceptor attitudes, lack of communication, and feeling undervalued.
Conclusion. The development of self-confidence is complex and multi-factorial. This study offers further understanding of facilitators and barriers that may be relevant elsewhere in promoting student nurses’ developing self-confidence. The development of self-confidence must be recognized as a central tenet for the design and delivery of undergraduate programmes.