Self-employed registered nurses : the impact of liminality and gender on professional identities and spaces : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing, Massey University, Manawatū, Aotearoa New Zealand

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This thesis explores the experiences of self-employed registered nurses in Aotearoa New Zealand working in the practice area of professional advice and policy. Liminality theory and gender theory, with a feminist post-structuralist lens, were used as theoretical approaches. The participants spanned the masculinist areas of business, self-employment and policy, while connected by a strong bond to the normatively feminine nursing profession. Considering these views using a gendered lens and the participants’ position as outsiders to both business and nursing proved a powerful way to interpret the data. The research was conducted using focused ethnography, enabling interviews and observation of the 13 participants’ home-based workspaces. Data chapters incorporate the phases of liminality, separation, transition and re-aggregation, all of which provided a strong foundation underpinning the participant journey. The participant group of mid- to late-career registered nurses had high levels of education, practice experience and skillsets, which could be used across nursing and the whole of health, yet due to their liminal and individualistic positioning the nurses remained invisible, both physically and professionally. Outcomes included insight into why the participants chose self-employment, the gendered assumptions they faced, the difficulties of learning new skills when separated from familiar resources and support systems and the tensions of working from home. The participants, while each at different stages, followed the phases of liminality in acculturating to self-employment, but remained in a permanent limonoid state for other aspects of their work life. My findings indicate that, anchored by historical discourses, nursing remains a devalued feminised occupation. Captured in gendered subjective positioning, the participants navigate complex and competing discourses in relation to work, home, profession and belonging.
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Nurses, Self-employed women, Liminality, New Zealand