Nursing students’ values from selection to qualification: a longitudinal study of how students describe their values when exposed to a curriculum based on a humanising philosophy

Authors: Scammell, J., Tait, D. and White, S.

Start date: 6 May 2018

Background: Nursing values are embedded within codes of professional practice and focus on the person and their human rights (ICN 2012). Values can be described as the ideals and beliefs expressed consciously and unconsciously through a person’s actions. The manifestation of these values among nurses have come under scrutiny in recent years with practitioners, educators and managers being challenged to re-establish the person at the centre of care (Francis 2013; OECD 2013). Studies undertaken with student nurses suggest that caring values can become tempered with “professional realism” as students begin to merge theory with practice; subsequently caring behaviour can decline by the end of the nursing programme (Murphy et al. 2009).

Project aim: To develop a deeper understanding of how student nurses described their values and what they perceived to be the factors that influenced those values as they progressed through a nursing curriculum based on a humanising philosophy (Galvin & Todres 2013).

Method: In 2013 new undergraduate nursing students (n=161) were invited to take part from one English university. A longitudinal, mixed method co-operative inquiry approach over three years was used. Ethical approval was obtained. Students were invited to express their values at the outset and half way through the programme. Through cooperative inquiry groups, they went on to analyse what challenged and supported their values as they progressed, and finally, to evaluate how the nursing programme had influenced their value base at the point of qualification. Methods for data collection included: a values clarification questionnaire, focus groups and co-operative inquiry groups. Data were analysed using inductive qualitative content analysis.

Findings: Five themes were identified in year one and these were analysed and evaluated by the co-researchers as the study progressed. The findings that subsequently unfolded fell into three distinct phases loosely aligned to the three years of the programme: “students’ ideals and aspirations”, followed by a period of “reality and uncertainty” to a position of “living and flourishing with reality and uncertainty”.

Conclusion: Students readily drew upon their experience of living to identify person-centred values about nursing and being valued as individuals. They identified that the nursing programme had helped them to build their knowledge and resilience; they felt able to draw upon key concepts from the humanising curricular approach to challenge poor practice and argue for the fundamental need to respect humanity.

References Francis, R. (2013). Report of the Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust Public inquiry. Available at: (Accessed 1 Sept 2017).

Galvin, K. and Todres, L. (2013) Caring and Wellbeing. A Lifeworld Approach. London: Routledge.

International Council of Nurses (ICN) (2012). The ICN Code of Ethics for Nurses (Revised 2012). Available from: (Accessed 1 Sept 2017). Murphy, F., Jones, J., Edwards, M., James, J. Mayer, A. (2009) The impact of nurse education on the caring behaviours of nursing students. Nurse Education Today, 29, 254-264. OECD. (2013) OECD Reviews of Health Care Quality: Denmark. Available at: (Accessed 1 Sept 2017).

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