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Discursive constructions of professional identity in policy and regulatory discourse.

Fealy, Gerard; Hegarty, Josephine-Mary; McNamara, Martin; Casey, Mary; O'Leary, Denise; Kennedy, Catriona; O'Reilly, Pauline; O'Connell, Rhona; Brady, Anne-Marie; Nicholson, Emma


Gerard Fealy

Josephine-Mary Hegarty

Martin McNamara

Mary Casey

Denise O'Leary

Pauline O'Reilly

Rhona O'Connell

Anne-Marie Brady

Emma Nicholson


Aim. To examine and describe disciplinary discourses conducted through professional policy and regulatory documents within nursing and midwifery in Ireland. Background. A key tenet of discourse theory is that group identities are constructed in public discourses and these discursively-constructed identities become social realities. Professional identities can be extracted from both the explicit and latent content of discourse. Studies of nursing's disciplinary discourse have drawn attention to a dominant discourse that confers nursing with particular identities, which privilege the relational and affective aspects of nursing, and in the process, marginalise scientific knowledge and the technical and body work of nursing. Design. We used critical discourse analysis to analyse a purposive sample of nursing and midwifery regulatory and policy documents. Method. We applied a four-part, sequential approach to analysing the selected texts. This involved identifying key words, phrases and statements that indicated dominant discourses that, in turn, revealed latent beliefs and assumptions. The focus of our analysis was on how the discourses construct professional identities. Findings. Our analysis indicated recurring narratives that appeared to confer nurses and midwives with three dominant identities: 'the knowledgeable practitioner', the 'interpersonal practitioner' and the 'accountable practitioner'. The discourse also carried assumptions about the form and content of disciplinary knowledge. Conclusions. Academic study of identity construction in discourse is important to disciplinary development by raising nurses' and midwives' consciousness, alerting them to the ways that their own discourse can shape their identities, influence public and political opinion and, in the process, shape public policy on their professions.


FEALY, G., HEGARTY, J.-M., MCNAMARA, M., CASEY, M., O'LEARY, D., KENNEDY, C., O'REILLY, P., O'CONNELL, R., BRADY, A.-M. and NICHOLSON, E. 2018. Discursive constructions of professional identity in policy and regulatory discourse. Journal of advanced nursing [online], 74(9), pages 2157-2166. Available from:

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 16, 2018
Online Publication Date May 23, 2018
Publication Date Sep 30, 2018
Deposit Date Apr 20, 2018
Publicly Available Date May 24, 2019
Journal Journal of advanced nursing
Print ISSN 0309-2402
Electronic ISSN 1365-2648
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 74
Issue 9
Pages 2157-2166
Keywords Nursing; Midwifery; Identity; Professional; Discourse; Policy; Regulation
Public URL