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Family nurse practitioners, professional identity, role transition, rural nursing, work satisfaction, primary care, professional comportment, nursing education



  1. Owens, Rhoda A. PhD, RN (Assistant Professor)


Background: Nurse practitioners (NPs) are being used to meet the increased demand for rural primary care.


Purpose: The purpose of this study was to explore the perceptions and experiences of rural NPs while they transitioned from being registered nurses to family NPs (FNPs). In addition, the study examined if and how new FNPs experienced their professional identity formation in their first year of rural primary care practice.


Methodological orientation: A qualitative phenomonological research design was used.


Sample: A sample of 12 FNPs who graduated from one of three Midwestern university programs, worked, and provided primary care at a rural health care facility located in one of four full-practice states were used within the study.


Conclusions: Participants experienced new nurse practitioner professional identity formation beginning in their education programs, which continued throughout their first year of practice. Four themes emerged from the data analysis: learning new knowledge, skills, roles, and responsibilities; interactions with patients, providers, and interprofessional team members; incentive to learn and practice in rural health care; and professional identity formation.


Implications for practice: The emerging model, The Process of Professional Identity Formation for Rural Family NPs, shows potential for use as a framework to guide rural NP curriculum and professional development programs. Policy makers must also continue the push to increase the number of states allowing NPs full independent practice. These efforts could promote rural NP support, recruitment, and retention that will be key to meeting the primary care needs of rural and vulnerable populations.