Poster Presentation The 26th International Nursing Philosophy Conference 2023

Nursing Professional Identity: A Critical Review of the Concept Amidst COVID-19 (#63)

Alayna Payne 1 , Dr. Michelle Lalonde 1 , Dr.Amélie Perron 1 , Dr. Brandi Vanderspank 1
  1. University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ONTARIO, Canada

Background: Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, nurses have been publicly hailed as heroes (Mohammed et al., 2021). However, heroism is not new in nursing; it is an immutable and quintessential part of what gives rise to the phenomenon that is nurse. Since nursing’s inception, the heroic virtue script has prevailed, most notably during times of public health crises such as those which occurred with SARS, Ebola, HIV, and currently, COVID-19.  Within this script, nurses are characteristically recognized as the epitome of feminine morality who sacrifice themselves to a larger social calling. This altruistic discourse, however, comes with profound consequences for the nursing profession, particularly in relation to nursing’s professional identity (Ciezar-Andersen & King-Shier, 2021). Although an etic perspective may endorse the accolades associated with espousing a professional identity that exists at the nexus of heroism, courage, and compassion, from an emic perspective, the implications of such bear consideration. The issue of a professional nursing identity is an epistemic one; one that holds real-life consequences for those who enact it. Purpose: This critical review explores the phenomenon of nursing’s professional identity, specifically the ways in which it has been characterized, accepted as true, and actualized against the backdrop of gendered and heroic discourses. Methods: Two concept analyses of nursing’s professional identity are critically reviewed and juxtaposed with literature arising from the COVID-19 context, using a post-structural feminism theoretical framework and critical discourse analysis methods.  The concept analysis yields three emerging discourses: re-instating value through heroism; COVID-19 as an opportunity for visibility and social status; and gender, power, and resiliency. Discussion: By critically questioning how knowledge-power structures have shaped nursing’s professional identity, this critical review provides valuable insights into the evolution of nursing’s professional identity and raises key questions around the implementations of uncritical acceptance of internally and externally derived discourses. 

  1. Mohammed, S., Peter, E., Killackey, T., & Maciver, J. (2021). The “nurse as hero” discourse in the COVID-19 pandemic: A poststructural discourse analysis. International Journal of Nursing Studies, 117, 103887–103887.
  2. Ciezar-Andersen, S., & King-Shier, K. (2021). Detriments of a Self-Sacrificing Nursing Culture on Recruitment and Retention: A Qualitative Descriptive Study. Canadian Journal of Nursing Research, 53(3), 233–241.