“You’ll be the RN soon”: Separating performative roles of student and registered nurse

Naomi Malouf, Sandra West


Background: The transition to practice of (novice) Registered Nurses (RNs) is commonly seen as a simple process of “sliding” from one role to the other–Student Nurse (SN) to RN. How novice RNs accomplish moving from performing the role of SN to that of RN however, is rarely examined. Objective: To differentiate the performative roles of SNs and novice RNs.

Methods: Design: Interpretive qualitative design involving three sequential in-depth interviews during participants’ first year of practice; Setting: Australian metropolitan acute care hospitals; Participants: Nine Australian novice RNs; Procedure: Emergent themes were identified using constant comparative analysis and further conceptualised through development of a series of diagrams to determine how elements of these transition experiences might interact.

Results: SNs rarely see the reality of performing as a novice RN until the role is actually upon them. While inextricably linked, these performances have become conflated into a conceptual continuum preventing acknowledgement of what are two distinct roles. Irving Goffman's dramaturgical work was used to develop emergent understandings of how both SN and RN roles were each distinctly rehearsed and performed. Margaret Archer's “inner conversation” was then used to develop an understanding of how novice RNs move between these roles.

Conclusions: Rather than assuming that SNs will adapt seamlessly to practice as novice RNs, attention needs to be given to differentiating the start and endpoints of this significant transition. Doing so will provide clarity around what educators expect of both roles and help those engaged in this transition to practice to celebrate their successes as both SNs and novice RNs.


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5430/jnep.v5n10p120

Journal of Nursing Education and Practice

ISSN 1925-4040 (Print)   ISSN 1925-4059 (Online)

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