Date of Award

Fall 2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Leadership and Advanced Nursing Practice

Committee Chair

Dr. Lachel Story

Committee Chair School

Leadership and Advanced Nursing Practice

Committee Member 2

Dr. Janie Butts

Committee Member 2 School

Leadership and Advanced Nursing Practice

Committee Member 3

Dr. Nina McLain

Committee Member 3 School

Leadership and Advanced Nursing Practice

Committee Member 4

Dr. Elizabeth Tinnon

Committee Member 4 School

Professional Nursing Practice

Committee Member 5

Dr. Amy Rex Smith


Constructivist grounded theory methods were applied in this study to explore traits of character that facilitate the formation of exemplary nurses in Bachelor of Science Nursing (BSN) programs. Interest in this study was prompted by a desire to examine attributes beyond academics alone that contribute to the formation of excellent nurses. The intent was to promote clarity in describing these attributes for further scholarly discussion.

Framing this study was Aristotle’s doctrine of the golden mean (Aristotle, 350 B.C.E./1934). Operational definitions consistent with this doctrine were created for the concepts of character, character traits, and exemplary nursing practice. The concept of student formation as introduced in Educating Nurses: A Call for Radical Transformation (Benner et al., 2010) was adopted to explore synergistic processes melding excellence of character and excellence of intellect in nursing students.

One-on-one interviews were conducted using Zoom video-conferencing technology with 12 faculty members from 4 BSN programs in Mississippi. Open-ended questions posed to participants sought to identify habits of practice consistent with exemplary practice among nursing students and the traits of character that support development of those habits. Analysis of data was conducted through three coding phases consistent with constructivist grounded theory methodology. Theoretical sensitivity was maintained through constant comparative analysis of original data to emerging concepts. Data from the literature was incorporated to enrich discussion of these concepts.

Four categories emerged to describe exemplary practice habits in nursing students: presence, vigilance, grit, and commitment to professional nursing. Character traits supportive of each category were also identified. A theoretical framework explaining the relationship of these categories and traits to exemplary practice in BSN nursing students was constructed.

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