Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Master of Science




Booth, Richard G.


Background: The availability and adoption of social media technologies suggests that nurses, nursing students, and patients simultaneously use the same digital platforms for all manners of everyday communication. An issue within nursing education pertains to how nursing students use this form of technology during their undergraduate education and its subsequent outward professional impact on the profession.

Purpose: This study explores the ways in which nursing students use social media technology within/for nursing education.

Methodology: This study employs Kozinet’s (2015) netnography, alongside elements of grounded theory and visual methodology.

Sample and setting: The study was conducted by examining pictures and text posted to Instagram, an image-based social media platform. Through purposive and theoretical sampling strategies, Instagram entries posted by 40 nursing students was analysed.

Results: Core findings that emerged from the data analysis included two top-level themes: (a) Selfies and Soliloquies; and, (b) #becominganurse with an Evolving Digital Footprint. It was found that through the use of selfies and soliloquies, nursing students described and demonstrated their former and evolving nursing personas. Further, students commonly displayed moments of assimilation into the nursing profession as they evolved as a nursing student during their time in nursing school.

Conclusions: There is a considerable lack of understanding and awareness regarding the adoption and use of social media technology among nursing students. This study provides important findings regarding how nursing students use platforms like Instagram during their education.

Summary for Lay Audience

Social media technology such as Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok, allow individuals to communicate small pieces of information to other social media users in a short period of time. In turn, users of social media can also access small pieces of information shared by other users in an instant. With this in mind, social media has vastly changed how information is shared across space and time and has therefore subsequently impacted cultural practices embedded in the daily lives of many people who have access to social media. Currently, it is largely unknown in terms of how nursing students use social media during their time in nursing school and the potential impact on nursing students and the culture of the nursing profession. Therefore, this study analyzed images and text posted on Instagram by nursing students through the use of a cultural and technocentric research methodology, netnography. The research question guiding the analysis: how and what did nursing students used Instagram for during their time in nursing school. Research findings identified two major themes: (a) that nursing students posted selfies and soliloque-type entries on Instagram, and, (b) nursing students posted entries highlighting prominent moments (e.g., struggles, excitement, accomplishments) of their journeys as they transitioned from a student to a nurse. This study indicated that students posted entries to commemorate personal successes, their pride towards being a nursing student, and the challenges that students faced while in nursing school. Images found in student entries commonly included scrub selfies, stethoscopes, and personal ID badges, suggesting that students generally perceived these items as resembling the image of a nursing student. Further research should examine how student use of social media impact future students and their attitudes towards nursing education and the nursing profession.