Thesis (Ed.D)

“I am a Health Visitor now”: An Investigation of Student Health Visitors’ perceptions of their Professional Identity


In many health care professions professional identity is considered to be important because it aids recruitment and retention and improves quality of care. Professional identity in nursing has been examined in depth in relation to students joining the profession but it has not been considered in detail in relation to those who change roles in nursing. Professional identity in health visiting is significant because health visiting has a complex history from independent practice to a specialist branch of nursing. Health visitors are qualified nurses who complete a year-long post-qualification course and this thesis explores whether these preparation and transition programmes have a role in their professional identity development. Therefore, this study aims to examine professional identity in an under-researched professional group and to identify implications for educationalists involved in the professional preparation of HVs. This study involved a narrative inquiry wherein five student health visitors took part in three unstructured interviews during their year-long Specialist Community Public Health Nursing course. Participants told their stories about their career choices and their perceptions of their professional identity. Using the Wengerian notion of Communities of Practice as a theoretical framework and an analytical lens, the resulting interviews were analysed using a two-stage approach: a thematic analysis focussing on the content of the interviews and dialogic analysis to increase the depth of analysis The findings suggested that there were three overarching categories that impacted on the participants’ perceptions of their professional identity: their previous experience; their personal qualities (both pre-and post-participation in the course) and their conception of the health visitor’s role. This study thus adds to what is known about student health visitor professional identity and confirms comparable research findings in relation to other groups of health care professionals. It confirms a view of identity development as a process dependent on expectations, shared understanding of their role and was influenced by practitioners prior experience. These findings are important for: individuals who are considering undertaking a Health Visitor programme; for policy makers; for organisations that influence health visiting; for Higher Education Institutions who deliver programmes; for Commissioners of Education for health visiting and for employers who wish to retain student health visitors and improve quality of care.

DOI (Digital Object Identifier)

Permanent link to this resource:

Attached files

  • Type: PDF Document Filename: Goodman-Brown2020HealthVisitor.pdf Size: 1.62 MB


Goodman-Brown, Jane


Supervisors: Dalrymple, Roger; Butcher, Dan

Oxford Brookes departments

School of Education
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences


Year: 2020

© Goodman-Brown, Jane
Published by Oxford Brookes University
All rights reserved. Copyright © and Moral Rights for this thesis are retained by the author and/or other copyright owners. A copy can be downloaded for personal non-commercial research or study, without prior permission or charge. This thesis cannot be reproduced or quoted extensively from without first obtaining permission in writing from the copyright holder(s). The content must not be changed in any way or sold commercially in any format or medium without the formal permission of the copyright holders.