Degree Name

Master of Philosophy


School of Nursing


BACKGROUND: This thesis presents the outcomes of a study undertaken for a Master of Philosophy. The aim of this study was to explore the experiences of Enrolled Nurses undertaking a Bachelor of Nursing program in an Australian university. Enrolled Nurses may convert to the level of the Registered Nurse for a variety of reasons. This conversion involves attending a Higher Education institution and completing a Bachelor of Nursing to gain the knowledge and skills required to be a Registered Nurse. Many Higher Education institutions offer pathways and credit into the Bachelor of Nursing program for those who have an Enrolled Nurse qualification.

RESEARCH DESIGN: This study used a qualitative, descriptive exploratory design. The setting was an Australian University and participants were five students undertaking a Bachelor of Nursing program with a qualification as an Enrolled Nurse aiming to convert their skills to that of a Registered Nurse. Data were collected through individual interviews with participants and analysis of these data were by thematic analysis to generate themes for further understanding.

FINDINGS: The five Enrolled Nurses undertaking a Bachelor of Nursing program participated in semi-structured interviews. Upon completion of these interviews 3 major themes were identified that represented their experiences: ‘Duelling Identities’, ‘Challenging Realities’ and ‘Oppression’. Within the theme ‘Duelling Identities’, the research participants noted the benefits and burdens of being the Enrolled Nurse and Bachelor of Nursing student. In addition this theme showcased the challenges as experienced by the research participants, associated with being ‘in-between’ the Enrolled Nurse and the Registered Nurse as a Bachelor of Nursing student. The theme ‘Challenging Realities’, was drawn from the research participants’ perceptions about the knowledge required to be a Registered Nurse, how this should be delivered in a Bachelor of Nursing program and the role of the Registered Nurse versus what they actually experienced. The final theme ‘Oppression’ portrayed the research participants’ feelings of being ‘devalued and discriminated’ against and, at times, victimised for being an Enrolled Nurse through ‘vertical violence’.

CONCLUSION: This study contributes to knowledge about the challenges that Enrolled Nurses experience when attempting to convert to a Registered Nurse within the Higher Education setting. These challenges include issues with other commitments, feeling devalued and perceptions of being discriminated against. Nurse academics responsible for nursing curricula in Higher Education should be mindful of the challenges for Enrolled Nurse participants and design curricula accordingly, as well as provide support to these students during the implementation phase of the curriculum to ensure positive student experiences and their success within the program.