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Nursing on the Edge: Nursing Identity in Liminal Spaces

Attenborough, J. ORCID: 0000-0002-4018-8445 (2021). Nursing on the Edge: Nursing Identity in Liminal Spaces. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, Middlesex University)


This contextual statement is focussed on nursing in clinical practice and higher education encapsulated in a selected body of published work, illustrating a career of over thirty years. This journey spans a political and policy context that includes the expansion of higher education in the 1970s, the closure of the Victorian psychiatric hospitals in the 1990’s, the move of nursing from apprentice-style training into higher education in 1995, and the partial decoupling of nurse education from the NHS. Drawing on theories of liminality and Michael Lipsky’s Street Level Bureaucracy, the statement proposes innovative approaches to raising the profile of nursing, beyond a liminal position. The public works are produced from liminal spaces in clinical practice to the liminal space occupied by nursing in higher education. Whilst accepting the essence of nursing as a caring profession, the statement suggests how societal views about nursing are stereotyped and heavily influenced by the position of women generally. This is compounded by the reluctance of feminism to embrace nursing, and nostalgic views about the profession portrayed in the media and articulated at all levels, including in government. The works indicate how this has contributed to nursing occupying a liminal space in higher education. Focussing on nursing at the margins of society, early papers cover the period of deinstitutionalisation from the large psychiatric hospitals. Further papers focus on influencing the education, identity, and values of nurses, including how the rise of service user involvement can transform curricula. Later papers consider the views and experiences of nurse academics and students about professional identity and how this is expressed in learning and teaching; with insight into how identity and values are shaped by both clinical and educational experiences. The liminal experience of nursing in higher education is explored, alongside the dual identity experienced by nurses who move from clinical practice to the academy. The final group of papers examine the place of work-based learning in higher education, with the paradoxical discovery that although learning in healthcare is abundant, identifying learning opportunities can be elusive. Produced on the margins of clinical and academic practice, the works illuminate hidden areas that are not sufficiently valued. The statement and works provide a platform to raise the position and profile of nursing overall.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Additional Information: Copyright (2021) The Author.
Publisher Keywords: nursing identity; gender and nursing; liminality
Subjects: R Medicine > RT Nursing
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences
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