The lived experience of first year undergraduate student nurses: a hermeneutic phenomenological study

Debbie Porteous, Alison Machin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)
44 Downloads (Pure)


This study gives insight into the experiences and perceptions of one group of undergraduate nursing students as they make the transition into Higher Education and the nursing profession, during the first year, of their three-year programme. Research has shown that first year undergraduate experience is complex and challenging for any student. For undergraduate nursing students, the process of achieving additional professional practice competencies required for United Kingdom nursing registration adds additional responsibility and potentially, more pressure. Few studies have considered student nurses' lived experiences during their first year of study in any depth. Study aim This study aimed to understand how one group of undergraduate nursing students' perceived their experiences of the transition into higher education and nursing profession Design Framed within an interpretive philosophical paradigm, a hermeneutic phenomenological approach enabled the exploration of participants' lived experiences. Setting and Participants The study took place at a Higher Education Institution approved nurse education provider in the North of England, United Kingdom (UK). Following ethical approval, ten first year student nurses from a range of different backgrounds gave informed consent to participate. Methods Over a one year period between 2013 and 2014 participants provided data at three points during their first year (four months, eight months and twelve months) via semi-structured, digitally recorded individual interviews (n=30) and digital recordings of critical incident accounts as they occurred (n=30). Data was transcribed verbatim, systematically thematically analysed drawing on hermeneutic phenomenological principles and verified for thematic accuracy by participants in 2015. Findings Five themes emerged from the data: uncertainty; expectations; learning to survive; seeking support; and moving forward. Findings identify that the participants had developed skills to survive however considerable variation in their experience, influenced motivation and behaviour. They developed their own skills of coping to deal with the demands of academic life and those of the practice setting. An explanatory student journey model demonstrated that developing self-efficacy was key to their successful transition through the first year of undergraduate study. Conclusions Understanding the first year student nurse perspective and insight into their coping strategies are key to supporting a positive learning journey. Positive feedback from nurse educators, a growing sense of nursing community and motivation to succeed facilitates their internalisation of nursing identity, norms and values and an active pursuit of learning towards graduate status and becoming a nurse. Key Words Student nurses, transition, lived experience, professional transformation, self-efficacy
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)56-61
JournalNurse Education Today
Early online date3 Oct 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018


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