Understanding enrolled nurse pre-registration nursing students

Nursing student

Now more than ever, we need to change the way we think about career trajectories and progression via higher education to cater for diversity within nursing student populations.

As the healthcare sector continues to feel the pressure of workforce shortages, and universities widen participation, energy and focus must be directed at how we are best placed to meet the needs of nursing students. It starts with the way we think.

The nurse’s role is indispensable in the Australian healthcare sector and offers diverse opportunities for career progression. One pathway is transitioning from an Enrolled Nurse (EN) to a Registered Nurse (RN).

In many Australian jurisdictions, ENs have college-level diploma qualifications. Some universities offer ENs direct entry into the second year of a Bachelor of Nursing Program as recognition of their previous studies.1 This atypical pathway transition bridges the EN qualifications and the requirements for becoming an RN.

Within nursing literature, Hutchinson et al., Craft et al., and Wall et al. provide an understanding of the experiences and trajectories of ENs within the higher education setting.1-3 Largely absent from this body of work, however, is the use of French philosopher Pierre Bourdieu’s concepts of capital, field and habitus as a framework for the analysis of resources (capital) and dispositions (habitus) of ENs within the higher education setting (field).4 Thinking in this way, O’Shea (first-in-family students), Lewer (students impacted by domestic violence), and Reay (women and social class) provided nuanced understandings of previously hidden cohorts within higher education.5-7 Understanding EN pre-registration students in this way will be vital to inform and provide sustainable and quality improvements in policy and service provision for these students.

1 Hutchinson L, Mitchell C, & John WST. 2011. The transition experience of Enrolled Nurses to a Bachelor of Nursing at an Australian university. Contemporary Nurse : a Journal for the Australian Nursing Profession, 38(1/2), 191–200. https://doi.org/10.5172/conu.2011.38.1-2.191
2 Craft JA, Hudson PB, Plenderleith MB, & Gordon CJ. 2017. Enrolled nurses entering undergraduate studies at second year to become registered nurses – A mixed methods study on commencing perceptions of bioscience. Collegian (Royal College of Nursing, Australia), 24(4), 317–324. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.colegn.2016.05.002
3 Wall P, Fetherston C, & Browne C. 2020. Transitioning through a Bachelor of Nursing program: The enrolled nurse experience. Collegian (Royal College of Nursing, Australia), 27(4), 396–401. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.colegn.2019.11.004
4 Bourdieu P. 1977. Outline of a theory of practice (R. Nice, Trans.). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge HE Press.
5 O’Shea S. 2016. Avoiding the manufacture of “sameness”: First-in-family students, cultural capital and the higher education environment. Higher Education, 72(1), 59–78. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-015-9938-y
6 Lewer K. 2023. How do the life histories of women who have experienced domestic violence impact the ways they decide on and engage with higher education? Student Engagement in Higher Education Journal, 4(3), 48–67. Retrieved from https://sehej.raise-network.com/raise/article/view/1150
7 Reay D. 2021. The working classes and higher education: Meritocratic fallacies of upward mobility in the United Kingdom. European Journal of Education, 56(1), 53–64. https://doi.org/10.1111/ejed.12438

Kelly Lewer RN, PhD, Med, BN, Lecturer School of Nursing, University of Wollongong, NSW Australia

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