Dealing With Non Traditional Students In Nursing Education

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Non Traditional Students In Nursing Education and Dealing With Them

Dealing With Non Traditional Students In Nursing Education

Who are Non Traditional Students ,Retention Nontraditional Students In Nursing Education,Non Traditional Students and Teaching Strategies In Nursing Education,Admission Criteria for Non Traditional Students In Nursing.

Who are Non Traditional Students 

    Jeffreys (2003) describes nontraditional students as having any of the following characteristics: 25 years or older, commuter, individuals with children, representatives of minority racial and/or ethnic groups, males, General Equivalency Diploma (GED) graduates, English as a second language students, and those who require remedial classes.

     Ross Gordon (2011) also includes those who are single parents, financially independent, and working full-time or attending part-time. Nontraditional students include adults returning to earn their first degree, post baccalaureate students switching careers, and/or individuals returning to earn a second degree, often in an online or accelerated format.

Retention Nontraditional Students In Nursing Education

    Retention of nontraditional students in nursing refers to the rate at which students successfully stay in a program of study. Jeffreys (2003) describes program retention as the enrollment in a program, either part or full time, and taking the required courses; this may include repeating courses for which there has been withdrawal and/or failure.

    By 2022, more than $26,800 nurses will be needed in the United States (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014). The National Center for Education Statistics (2013) reported that from 2000 to 2011, enrollment of students aged 25 and older increased 41% in degree-granting institutions. Further, the Center predicts a rise of 14% in nontraditional student enrollments from 2011 to 2020. 

    Recruiting increased numbers of nontraditional students, including men and those of diverse ethnic backgrounds, will help reduce health disparities currently existing among under served populations (American Association of Colleges of Nursing [AACN], 2014). Thus, it is critical that nurse educators create an environment that is supportive and encouraging for these unique students who do not take the traditional path to their nursing degree.

    Nontraditional students have been one group of individuals who have an increased risk for attrition (Harris & O'Rourke, 2014). Normally older and more ethnically diverse, these students often have multiple stressors, including financial strain, employment constraints, and family and community responsibilities (Harris & O'Rourke, 2014). 

    Ethnically diverse students are at increased risk for attrition due to additional barriers, including lack of awareness of their cultural needs by nursing programs, feelings of isolation, lack of faculty support, and language barriers (Harris & O'Rourke, 2014). Some need to juggle schedules of children and aging parents as they try to negotiate time for class, clinical, labs, and studying. These conflicting priorities may lead to guilt, anxiety, and frustration as they make sacrifices to provide balance in their lives.

Non Traditional Students and Teaching Strategies In Nursing Education

    Due to the uniqueness of nontraditional learners, a variety of teaching strategies may be used to capture participants' learning needs. Visual, auditory, and kinesthetic styles are recognized by most nurse educators. Even though adults learn by a variety of methods, 80% are predominantly visual learners. The ways in which adults learn have an enormous effect on their ability to acquire and apply knowledge, seek learning experiences, and enjoy participating in the education process (Blevins, 2014).

    Knowles's theory of andragogy may be the best known theoretical approach for adult learners. According to this framework, adults prefer self-direction in learning; bring a vast reservoir of experience; exhibit a readiness to learn based on a need to know or do, prefer problem centered learning and exhibit a relatively high degree of internal motivation (Ross Gordon, 2011). Faculty can. serve as change agents in creating supportive learning environments by incorporating adult learning theory and research into the classroom, and by advocating for adult oriented programs and services. 

    The design and delivery of programs are critical to successful experiences for nontraditional students (Ross Gordon, 2011.Building on life experiences can create an environment that connects new knowledge to past expertise. Inviting students to share pertinent experiences enriches class discussion and can be a successful strategy for adult learners. Engagement provides an environment that makes relevant material, and real life stories build on adult learner experiences in the classroom (Day, Lovato, Tull, & Ross-Gordon, 2011)

    One explanation for attrition of nontraditional second-degree students is a mismatch between student expectations from prior career learning experiences and the reality of nursing curricula (Sedgewick, 2013). The literature pertaining to second-degree nursing students suggests that these students often consider nursing to be a practical, meaningful profession that will allow them to help others, as well as provide secure, well paying careers (Sedgewick, 2013).

Admission Criteria for Non Traditional Students In Nursing

    Nontraditional students often meet rigorous admission criteria, yet attrition rates remain high (Rouse & Rooda, 2010). With the development of effective interventions, schools of nursing can decrease attrition rates. The following interventions can assist in this endeavor: providing a thorough orientation that emphasizes the pace and intensity of the program, inviting alumni of the program to provide firsthand testimony regarding methods of handling the demands of a fast paced program; offering student assistance in preparing a personal budget and identifying additional sources of financial support, and offering students opportunities for counseling and stress relief (Rouse & Rooda, 2010).

    It is incumbent on administrators of nursing programs to make admission decisions that result in the highest possible retention rates of prepared students for the profession Rosenberg, Perraud, and Willis (2007) found that inadequate screening of potential applicants was a concern. Many health science programs assess noncognitive factors in an attempt to identify applicants who understand the commitment they are making. In addition, the essential characteristics of compassion, integrity, altruism, motivation, interpersonal skills, and respect are requisite for success (Rosenberg et al, 2007).

    In developing educational programs, faculty must understand the principles of adult learning, generational influences, and learning styles. The learning process is improved when education is presented with teaching methods that are coordinated with students' preferred learning styles. When learning needs are met, there is enhanced understanding and retention of information that ultimately impacts patient care (Blevins, 2014).

    Focus group sessions are effective methods for providing data on program evaluation, outcomes, and needs that can support retention. Robert, Pomarico, and Nolan (2011) used focus groups in nursing courses to identify students' learning needs, expectations for faculty, and preferred teaching methods. Faculty received feedback at various points in the program to build on qualities the students would bring to the program, and to adapt teaching strategies (Robert et al. 2011). 

    Learning communities, where students share strengths and collaborate on specific projects, can be ideal for this population. In designing programs, educators need to acknowledge student goals and the unique strengths they bring to the study and practice of nursing (Raines, 2011). Clear expectations and structure are important to nontraditional learners who expect that teachers are well organized and content is clear and concise (Day et al, 2011).

    Clinical instructors can be instrumental in working with nontraditional students. Cangelosi (2007) presents examples of how a clinical instructor made all the difference. These faculty members used pedagogical skills and clinical competence to show students how to integrate classroom learning in the clinical setting. Successful instructors were described as being there and taking extra time (Cangelosi, 2007) Clinical instructors who made a difference for students used themselves as bridges in facilitating student learning and encouraged students to create bridges of their own (Cangelosi, 2010).

    Nontraditional students need to be provided with opportunities to engage in partnerships with nurses in the clinical setting to foster self-confidence (Sedgewick, 2013), Fewer placements of longer duration would facilitate a sense of connection and give more time to develop supportive relationships (Sedgewick, 2013)

    Although nontraditional students may present themselves as self-assured, confident, and mature, they often seek reassurance that they have made the right career choice. Consequently, transitioning into the nursing program can be difficult, with students reporting feelings of being overwhelmed in response to the fast pace and heavy workload (Sedgewick, 2013).

    Combining rigorous admission screening with a thorough assessment of student goals can provide a foundation for strong support systems needed by nontraditional students throughout the nursing program. Providing clear expectations, incorporating adult-learning principles, and creating learning communities that support partnerships in the clinical area are critical to success. As we strive to make the health care workforce look more like the patient population, retaining these nontraditional students will help decrease disparities in health care as we educate the next generation of nurses.

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