A National Study of Undergraduate Nursing Students' Early Consideration of Doctoral Education: What Characteristics Predict Students' Report of Intention and Readiness to Continue Graduate Education toward the Doctorate?
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Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) Nursing
Statement of the Problem The looming nursing faculty shortage has already had a direct effect on schools of nursing. With our current understanding about enrollments needed to meet the demands of an adequately prepared healthcare workforce, attention needs to be directed toward the preparation of an adequate educator workforce. A consequence of not having doctorally prepared nursing faculty would result in an inadequate number of professors to accommodate the 70,000 applicants who are desiring to pursue their nursing degrees. One solution to the faculty shortage is to vastly increase the number of doctorally prepared faculty earlier in their careers. This would assist in meeting the need for 1.3 million nurses in the US. The purpose of this mixed-methods research study is to identify characteristics and factors of undergraduate nursing students, which perhaps influence their intent to pursue doctoral degrees. Nursing faculty need to assess the readiness of earlier doctoral education in order to promote the incentive to guide young, new graduate of bachelor’s and associate’s programs to think about a doctoral degree. The average age of a nursing professor in the US is currently 61.3 years old; therefore, it is crucial to inspire the next generation of nursing professors. Description of Research Methods A mixed-methods approach to combine the strengths of quantitative and qualitative into one study was conducted. The first component is a cross-sectional quantitative, correlational and comparative descriptive study to determine a relationship between variables of readiness, support and interest, and how they influence students’ intent to continue graduate/doctoral education. The survey was modified to focus on nursing students with an instrument designed to measure nurses’ “intention to pursue advanced education.” The tool used, with permission, was developed by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) with published validity and reliability, and a single visual analog scale (VAS) to measure directly asking “intention.” The survey was conducted via SurveyMonkey to a national sample of undergraduate students using the National Student Nurse’s Association (NSNA) membership as the population. Demographics were collected in the survey and consent was waived with information about the study and instructions that by completion and submission of the survey, subjects would have given their consent. Measures have been modified from the AACN survey on nurses’ readiness to continue their education (Dewitty, et al., 2016). The online survey was sent to students near the completion of their undergraduate coursework and to those in their earlier years and sorted by the students’ planned “year of graduation.” It was emailed near the May 2019 graduation date. In addition to the quantitative portion of the study, participants were offered two short open-ended questions to respond to as part of the survey. These open-ended comment responses yielded over 4,000 comments of narrative text, analyzed by content analysis of coding comments into categories and subsequently imported them into N-Vivo to produce a graphic “word cloud” (this would give insight into the respondents’ narratives from the large number of comments posted). Combining both methods enriched the study with quantitative data on a national sample and a deeper exploration of the experiences and perceptions of the student sample. The rich narratives or open-ended analysis of comments provided insights and more information to enhance the quantitative findings while overcoming the limitations of the study. Sample The study recruited nursing students from the National Student Nurse’s Association (NSNA). The NSNA was founded in 1952 and currently has approximately 60,000 nursing students enrolled in associate’s, baccalaureate, diploma, and accelerated graduate nursing programs (NSNA, 2019). Its mission is “to mentor students preparing for initial licensure as registered nurses, and to convey the standards, ethics, and skills that students will need as responsible and accountable leaders and members of the profession” (NSNA, 2019, para. 1). NSNA has surveyed its members since 2008 using SurveyMonkey to examine employment and workforce trends. Every year, the results of the surveys are examined to review trends and to examine a variety of topics pertaining to the student nurse. For example, students are routinely asked, “intent to continue education” in the annual NSNA survey, and this format is added to the tool. For example, the New Grad NSNA Survey conducted in 2017 Q50 asked “What is the highest degree you are planning to achieve?” (Feeg & Mancino, 2018). Of the 3,350 who answered, 141 (4.21%) stated they were interested in a doctorate (research-based degree: PhD, EdD). The sample for this study was the membership of NSNA members who were contacted via email using SurveyMonkey in Spring of 2019 for younger nursing students and those near graduation in the Spring or Summer of 2019. Responses from over 2,000 students provided the sample for the quantitative and qualitative analysis. A modest incentive was offered of $100 to five random participants at the end of the study. Two reminders over the study period were sent out to obtain an adequate sample with sufficient power for analysis. Procedures (1) Enrollment for the Quantitative Component: The NSNA students were emailed under the direction of the NSNA to avoid compromising the integrity of the mailing list. (2) Enrollment for the Qualitative Component: Participants who responded to the quantitative web-based survey were given the opportunity to write in their own words their responses to two open-ended questions that provided narrative data for a qualitative analysis. The qualitative component was designed to describe students’ understanding and goal of continuing master’s or doctoral education via two open-ended questions: 1. What does graduate education mean to you? 2. Tell me about your plans for advanced education in your future. Results The results yielded 2,755 returned SurveyMonkey surveys from the nursing students. The data were cleaned, reviewed, and excluded Hospital Based Diploma Program which yielded 2,170 respondents. The two open-ended questions that were asked on the survey resulted in over 400 pages of comments: (Question 1 [2,107 answered, 666 skipped after cleaning, 2,088 resulted] and Question 2 [2,139 answered, 634 skipped after cleaning, 1,905 final comments resulted]). The comments were triangulated and reviewed by the dissertation committee chair. The quantitative results that included factors readiness and interest were significantly related to undergraduate students’ planned intention to pursue the master’s and the doctoral degrees. The factor support was not related to the undergraduate students’ planned intention to pursue the master’s and the doctorate. The data revealed that men appeared slightly higher than females in factor readiness, interest, support and higher with intention for master’s degree and doctoral degree. Readiness was significantly related to gender with males more ready than females. Support and interest were not significantly related to gender. Intention to continue to master’s education is not significantly related to gender. However, intention to continue to doctoral education indicated that males have a higher intention to pursue doctoral education than females. There was a difference for the variables age and the factor readiness of undergraduate nursing students: older students were more ready than younger students to pursue graduate/doctoral education. The factor support is not related to age. Younger students were more interested in continuing their education to the graduate/doctoral graduate level compared to older students, and younger students had more intention to obtain a master’s degree and doctoral degree than older students. In addition, the data revealed that there were differences between demographic race/ethnicity and factors including support, interest, and the undergraduate nursing students’ intention to continue their education to the master’s and doctoral levels. There is no difference in readiness based on race/ethnicity. There was a significant difference between race/ethnicity and the factor interest: the mean interest scores for Black/African-American were significantly higher than the mean interest scores for Caucasian/White. For support, Asian/Pacific Islander and Black/African-Americans had lower mean scores for support than Caucasian/White or Hispanic/Latino. For intention to obtain a master’s degree and doctoral degrees, the mean intention score for Hispanic/Latino were significantly higher than the mean intention score for Caucasian/White for the master’s degree; and the mean intention score for Hispanic/Latino were significantly higher than the mean intention score for Caucasian/White for the doctoral degree. Associate’s students had a significantly higher mean scores for readiness to continue their education. Baccalaureate students had higher mean scores for intention to pursue doctoral degrees. The students with a friend or family member with a doctorate had significantly higher mean scores for readiness to continue their education than students without. The students with a friend or family member with a doctorate had significantly higher mean scores for intention to pursue the doctorate than students without. The students without a friend or family member with a doctorate had significantly higher mean scores for support than students with a friend or family member. There is a difference of loan debt and factor readiness between no debt and low debt of undergraduate nursing students to continue their education. Mean loan debt scores of the factor readiness were significantly higher for no debt than for low debt and or high debt. There is no difference of loan debt and factor support between no debt and low debt of undergraduate nursing students to continue their education. There is no difference for the demographic variable interest between no debt and low debt of undergraduate nursing students to continue their education. There is no difference for the demographic variable of loan debt and undergraduate nursing students’ intention to continue their master’s education. There is no difference for the demographic variable of loan debt and undergraduate nursing students’ intention to continue their doctoral education. Intention in the quantitative results mean scores are high, suggesting that these students need to be encouraged beyond their current degree and pursue a higher level of education. Implications The data suggest encouraging students early on is beneficial to their pursuing higher education.
Buonaguro, Renee Lynn, "A National Study of Undergraduate Nursing Students' Early Consideration of Doctoral Education: What Characteristics Predict Students' Report of Intention and Readiness to Continue Graduate Education toward the Doctorate?" (2020). Theses & Dissertations. 93.