Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Professor William B. Shaffir


This thesis presents a sociological portrait of the "typical" administrative career and a typology of the characteristics and beliefs of those who achieve the high status designation "nurse administrator." The thesis contributes to a sociological understanding of the prepatation, recruitment, selection and appointment of senior administrators in nursing. This information is important to hospitals and health agencies requiring nursing leaders to shape and advance the objectives of the organization; and the prospective administrators who need to understand career routes to administrative positions, and to recognize attributes rewarded by promotion. The theoretical framework for the study derives from social psychology as reflected in the symbolic interactionist perspective. Life and organizational contingencies influencing career pathways have been identified through semi-structured biographic interviews. These are used to demonstrate the dominant modes of entryy to an administrative career in nursing. This approach has enabled the isolation and description of a set of beliefs influencing the career decisions of nurses who become administrators. This collective belief system is referred to as the administrative ethos in nursing. Through an exploration of this ethos from the perspective of the nurse administrators interviewed, three variants - the clinical ethos, the management-organizational ethos, and the corporate-executive ethos - are proposed. The thesis concludes that recognition of these variants is important in understanding how the career and professional practice of an administrator are shaped. Sixty-two Executive Directors, Directors and Assistant Directors of Nursing, or their equivalents, were interviewed in detail. They were drawn from twenty-five large hospitals across seven major cities in three Canadian provinces and two Australian states. The cross-national comparative element of the study reveals that nurse administrators in both Canada and Australia have comparable beliefs about nursing administration. While their career paths to an administrative position do not differ greatly, the administrative position is more likely to be a final career position for Australians, while Canadians are more likely to move between senior appointments in clinical service, administration and education, or to have join appointments.

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Sociology Commons