Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Department of Nursing


The uncritical acceptance of a role for the biological sciences in undergraduate nursing curricula is based on historical patterns of nursing education in a socially constructed environment that values scientific knowledge above other forms of knowledge.

This thesis seeks to explore the association between clinical nursing practice and the biophysical sciences of the undergraduate nursing curricula in order to ensure a better fit between these two elements. Specifically, the thesis seeks to identify those elements of the biophysical sciences that can be demonstrated as relevant to the work requirements of newly graduated registered nurses. The imperative of this demonstration of relevance is explored in the thesis.

The method utilised in this study involves a triangulation of data sources (observation studies, patient information and equipment at the bedside) in order to understand the work of the beginning registered nurse. This understanding is then used to structure the deliberations of a focus group of experienced nurses, who were asked to identify the biophysical sciences knowledge they believed was essential to the performance of nursing work as described by the results of the earlier phases of the study.

Results show recognition by registered nurses of a need for some biophysical sciences in undergraduate nursing curricula. A strong emphasis on anatomy, physiology, pathophysiology and pharmacology is illustrated while a lesser inclusion of nutrition and microbiology is also demonstrated. Physics and chemistry are almost entirely omitted from the suggested content inclusion.

Interestingly, the language and structures developed during the focus group processes suggest a method of incorporation of the biophysical sciences within an identifiable nursing framework. This framework is reported as one of the unique outcomes of the thesis.