Imposter syndrome– why is it so common among nurse researchers and is it really a problem?
Evidence and practice    

Imposter syndrome– why is it so common among nurse researchers and is it really a problem?

Paul Gill Senior Lecturer (adult nursing), School of Healthcare Sciences, Cardiff University, Cardiff, Wales

Why you should read this article:
  • To gain an overview of what imposter syndrome is, and how and why it typically occurs in higher education institutes, particularly among doctoral students and early career nurse researchers

  • To understand the potentially detrimental personal and professional effects of imposter syndrome on those affected

  • To find out about techniques that can be used to manage and contextualise the associated feelings

Background Imposter syndrome is common among early career nurse researchers and often has a considerable impact on those affected. It can cause various problems, including anxiety, self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy, and therefore has significant potential to adversely affect personal and professional development.

Aim To critically explore the concept of imposter syndrome among early-to-mid career nurse researchers.

Discussion There may be several reasons why imposter syndrome is common among nurse researchers. Evidence suggests it is ubiquitous in other academic disciplines across the higher education sector, particularly in early-to-mid career researchers. It is unclear how or why nurse researchers are affected by this phenomenon, and whether feeling like an imposter is problematic in this context.

Conclusion Imposter syndrome can be deeply unsettling, particularly at times of specific exposure or peer review. It is relatively normal for even the most experienced, successful researchers to feel like this. Related feelings of self-doubt and critical self-reflection are essential in appropriate measures to research and can reduce researchers’ potential for making significant mistakes.

Implications for practice When managed appropriately, imposter syndrome can be important in scholarly activity and ongoing personal and professional development. Recognising this is an important first step in mitigating related feelings of inadequacy.

Nurse Researcher. doi: 10.7748/nr.2020.e1750

Peer review

This article has been subject to external double-blind peer review and has been checked for plagiarism using automated software


Conflict of interest

None declared

Gill P (2020) Imposter syndrome – why is it so common among nurse researchers and is it really a problem? Nurse Researcher. doi: 10.7748/nr.2020.e1750

Published online: 10 September 2020

Want to read more?

Already subscribed? Log in


Unlock full access to RCNi Plus today

Save over 50% on your first 3 months

Your subscription package includes:
  • Unlimited online access to all 10 RCNi Journals and their archives
  • Customisable dashboard featuring 200+ topics
  • RCNi Learning featuring 180+ RCN accredited learning modules
  • RCNi Portfolio to build evidence for revalidation
  • Personalised newsletters tailored to your interests
RCN student member? Try Nursing Standard Student

Alternatively, you can purchase access to this article for the next seven days. Buy now