Cultivating Professional Meaning and Commitment: Frontline Nurses' Narratives about Peer Support

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Virginia Tech


This dissertation explores frontline nurses' perceptions of peer support in fostering emotional, professional, and organizational support and commitment in different contexts. This study draws together scholarship on street-level bureaucrats (SLBs) and formal and informal training in nursing to build on research demonstrating that internal organizational elements such as formal training and informal peer interaction continuously develop SLBs' professional and organizational personalities. Also, research traditions on SLBs regard peer interaction as policy implementation using "service styles" to build stronger ties with peers to solve problems and better respond to the needs of citizens and communities. Despite the prominent role peers play in scholarly research on SLBs, few empirical studies have contextualized the meaning of peer support in different settings to examine how it affects professional meaning and organizational commitment in a specific industry. This dissertation expands on the findings of several studies that demonstrate that peer relatedness is an important component of frontline work. The distinctive contribution of this dissertation is using narrative analysis to collect and analyze stories of firsthand experiences told by personal narratives from mental health, military, and emergency nurses in public hospitals to thoroughly compare the perception of informal or formal peer support influence and highlight its evaluative aspects across different settings. This dissertation contributes to the street-level bureaucracy theory by providing empirical evidence in contextualizing peer support as a catalyst for emotional support and a buffer for organizational uncertainty in various emotionally charged healthcare settings.



Peer support, street-level bureaucrats, frontline nurses, policy implementation, bottom-up implementation, professional meaning, professional commitment.