Date of Conferral







Kathleen Brewer


The importance of developing professionalism in the new nursing graduate has been discussed in the nursing literature and identified as a goal in the Future of Nursing competencies. However, the understanding of undergraduate nursing students'perceptions of membership in professional organizations is unknown. This study was conducted to better understand nursing students' views of membership. Social identity theory was used to explain how membership in a professional organization promotes exposure and adaptation of preferred professional behaviors. Novice-to-expert theory was selected to explain the maturation process of professionalism in the new graduate. Twelve nursing students enrolled in an undergraduate nursing program participated in audiotaped, semi-structured, face-to-face interviews. The collected data were analyzed using data analysis software. The two themes that emerged: Valuing membership in a professional organization and Hindering membership in a professional organization. The fear of failure as a hindrance to joining pre-professional organizations was an unexpected finding. Nursing education can use these themes to introduce the concept of professionalism in the undergraduate curriculum and to address barriers to membership. This study has implications for positive social change by promoting the development of professionalism in the new graduate. Future research could include repeating the data collection process over a broader geographical region. Additional investigation could include determining if a difference in joining a professional organization as a new graduate exists between variouos entry-level programs nursing programs.