Date of Submission



This research explores how registered nurses constructed their leadership role during the provision of health care services in acute care, adult hospitals in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. As health care organizations change to meet the demands of the twenty first century, nurses in Australia are coming to realize there is a dissonance between what they perceive to be the relevance of their work and the perception of the relevance of nurses' work by others in the health care system. Consequently, nurses' contributions to health care services are not recognized. The literature highlights that one way to address this problem is to articulate the various leadership roles contemporary nurses are asked to undertake. This is the aim of this thesis. This research seeks to illuminate the role of the nurse within changing health care systems by making clear the nature of their work through the perspectives of leadership. Consequently, the purpose of this study is to explore how nurses have undertaken leadership initiatives in their role as health care providers within contemporary health care organisations. The literature review generated following research questions: 1. How do nurses describe leadership within their health care organisations? 2. How do nurses experience leadership within their health care team? 3. How do nurses construct their leadership role whilst providing health care services? In order to legitimate its findings this study aimed to provide a clear theoretical framework. In order to gain a clear understanding of the personal experiences and meanings of the participants, the theoretical framework for this study was underpinned by the interpretive philosophies the epistemological framework of constructionism and the theoretical perspective of symbolic interactionism. The methodology of case study enabled an empirical investigation of a contemporary nursing phenomenon, leadership wherein the researcher was able to pose questions to those nurses from whom most could be learned. Data were collected through two stages. In stage one, the exploratory stage data was collected through three focus group interviews. Stage two aided deeper exploration of the nurses' leadership constructs with data obtained through one-to-one interviews. Analysis of the data enabled the development of a model of nurse leadership. Participants identified that their leadership was constructed through three perspectives of Self as Leader, Self and Others and Self in Action. The findings contrast the nurses' unique leadership constructs to those of health care organisations, highlight the lack of acknowledgment for nurse leadership within health care teams, and demonstrate how the nurses' leadership constructs influence their decision to act in the provision of patient care. This study concludes that as the nurses come to realise traditional leadership models are incompatible with their goal of achieving patient centred care, they have developed a different style of leadership to achieve their vision of patient centred care. Finally this study offers recommendations in the areas of nursing practice, nursing education and research.


School of Educational Leadership

Document Type


Access Rights

Open Access


238 pages

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Faculty of Education