Purpose: The purpose of the study is to understand the experiences of career exploration among nursing students during their clinical practice and to develop a theoretical framework for the career exploration process. Methods: From February 2 to 28, 2015, data were collected through focus group interviews from 24 participating fourth-year nursing students. The data were analyzed using grounded theory. Results: The central phenomenon of 'confusion between the ideal and the reality of nursing' occurred in contexts for various reasons of choosing one's major, nurses in the ideal, a vague fear of the field, arduous nursing assignments in the field, and severe adversity in the nursing field. Nursing students tried to deal with their confusion by using interaction strategies such as pursuing the intrinsic value of nursing, finding role models, trying to project oneself, and preparing for adapting to reality. The career exploration process in clinical practice was a voyage to discover the authentic nurse of the pre-registration nurse. Conclusion: This result shows that nursing students were to gain confidence in their career choices by finding the value of nursing and interacting with patients. Therefore, opportunities for learning experiences about interaction with patients and various positive experiences in clinical practice should be provided for nursing students.
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