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An exploration of the knowledge required by nurses to achieve occupational capability : Looking beyond the theory-practice gap.

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

The knowledge required for nursing competence has commonly been
conceptualised in terms of theory and practice. This presents two separate and
distinct accounts of the knowledge required for occupational practice, where
deficits in a nurse’s competence are often assumed to arise because of a lack of
either theoretical or practical knowledge. However, others claim that this
provides a rather disjointed and incoherent account of the knowledge required
for occupational practice. Instead, they have suggested knowledge is grounded
on a much more fundamental understanding of human involvements, disclosed
to us through our shared engagement in a world of meanings and
understandings, as anticipated by the phenomenological philosophers
Heidegger (1962) and Merleau-Ponty (2014). From this perspective, the ability
to perform within an occupational role involves a learning to perceive, interpret
and understand the ‘world’ of the occupational group one is aspiring to join.
This empirical study set out to gain insight into the knowledge and
understandings substantially required to perform within an occupational role.
Using a case study of ten nurses working with an acute hospital NHS Trust, this
study examined how such understandings may be manifested in their everyday
practice. From thematic analysis of data collected from participant observation
and qualitative interviewing, evidence was found to support the view that
nurses practised in ways that were congruent with this phenomenological
account of knowledge. This study contributes to the existing literature by
concluding that the knowledge required for nursing competence involves an
ability to perceive and relate to practice in ways that are constituted by a kind
of phenomenological understanding. It also suggests that nurses are
subconsciously disposed to adopt practices, in accordance with these
understandings. This study recommends that nurse education should abandon
its focus on the outcomes of learning, which are secondary and derivative of a
more fundamental understanding, and instead focus on the tacit and embodied
nature of knowledge that gives rise to such capabilities.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date2018


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