What Attracts Second Degree Students to a Career in Nursing?

Deborah A. Raines, PhD, RN, ANEF

Disclosures

Online J Issues Nurs. 2011;16(1) 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction

Abstract

The fastest growing university-based nursing programs are the accelerated programs of study for students who hold a baccalaureate degree in another discipline and desire to change careers. Understanding the factors that attract these individuals to the study and practice of nursing is important for nursing recruitment and retention. In this article the author describes how she analyzed the stories of the first two cohorts of students (N=66) admitted to an accelerated, second degree program in the Southeastern United States. These stories, written by prospective students, described the factors that influenced their decision to pursue the study of nursing as a second career. A content analysis identified three themes: What I bring to nursing; Seeking satisfying work; and The missing piece. The findings provide insight into the factors that attract the second degree/career changing learner to the study of nursing. The author begins with a review of literature related to the reasons for choosing nursing as a profession and a description of the method used to analyze the stories written by the prospective students. This is followed by her presentation of findings, along with a discussion of the findings and the implications of the findings for educators and employers.

Introduction

A recent projection by workforce analysts has indicated that the current shortfall in the number of nurses needed to provide care in the United States (US) is expected to increase to more than 500,000 by the year 2025 (Buerhaus, Staiger, & Auerbach, 2008). The introduction of the accelerated baccalaureate program in nursing was designed as a curricular innovation to enroll more students in nursing programs so as to meet workforce needs. Accelerated baccalaureate programs are designed for adults who have already completed a baccalaureate or graduate degree in a non-nursing discipline and who desire to become a nurse; they are the quickest route to licensure as a registered nurse (RN). These programs have experienced tremendous growth and popularity, and are now offered in 43 states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico (American Association of Colleges of Nursing [AACN] 2008a). In 2007 there were 205 accelerated baccalaureate programs enrolling 9,938 students, a significant increase over the 90 programs available in 2002 (AACN, 2008b). At four-year colleges and universities, new accelerated baccalaureate nursing programs far outpace all other types of new entry-level nursing programs (Raines & Taglaireni, 2008).

The projected RN shortage and work force needs have generated interest in nursing as a career; nursing has become an attractive option for second degree students seeking a career change. Previous research has demonstrated that second degree/career changing students enrolled in accelerated programs are successful as students, as National Council Licensure Examination-RN candidates, and in the transition to independent professional practice (Raines, 2007). The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) Issue Bulletin, 2005 American Association of Colleges of Nursing. (AACN) Issue Bulletin, Accelerated programs: The fast-track to careers in nursing Available at: http://www.sciencedirect.com.ezproxy.fau.edu/science?_ob=RedirectURL&_method=externObjLink&_locator=url&_cdi=6916&_plusSign=%2B&_targetURL=http%253A%252F%252Fwww.aacn.nche.edu%252FPublications%252Fissues%252FAug02.htm (2005) Accessed July 25, 2006. American Association of Colleges of Nursing Issue Bulletin (2008a) reported that accelerated students excel in class and that employers prize these graduates. However, there is limited literature about what attracts second degree/career changing students to the study of nursing. This article will report the findings of a study asking what factors attract individuals with a degree in a non-nursing discipline to seek a career in nursing. I will begin with a review of literature describing reasons for choosing nursing as a career, and a description of the method used to analyze the stories written by the prospective students explaining why they desired to earn a nursing degree. This will be followed by a presentation of findings, along with a discussion of the findings and the implications of the findings for educators and employers.

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