Exploring What Works: New Variables to Promote Student Success

Monday, 30 October 2017

Michelle H. Cheshire, EdD, MSN, BSN
Capstone College of Nursing, University of Alabama Capstone College of Nursing, Tuscaloosa, AL, USA
Haley P. Strickland, EdD, MSN, BSN
Capstone College of Nursing, The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL, USA

It is imperative that applicants who are admitted to a nursing program are academically prepared to meet the rigors of a nursing curriculum. To promote student success, increase diversity, and increase retention, nursing programs throughout the United States attempt to admit the most highly qualified applicants. In addition, schools of nursing strive to admit those applicants most likely to achieve first-time success on the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). The selection processes of nursing programs today are typically solely based on academic achievement (GPA). However, it is evident that non-academic skills such as empathy, emotional stability, and critical thinking are important for success in nursing school and in the nursing profession (Codier & Odell, 2014). Delineating the right combination of admission criteria, which are most predictive of success, continues to be an ongoing challenge for baccalaureate nursing programs across the United States (Hinderer, DiBartolo, & Walsh, 2014).

Current criteria used by many baccalaureate programs, GPA, lends itself to admitting a homogenous cohort of students who are predominately white females under 25 years of age. Nationally registered nurses are not representative of the diversity of the nation’s population. Although Caucasians represent only 65.6% of the US population, 83.2% of all nurses are white. In the US, Hispanic Americans and African Americans 65 years and older are expected to show a sharp increase between years 2012 and 2050. In 2050, Hispanic elders are expected to account for 20% of the population, which is up from 7% in 2010; while African Americans are projected at 12%, up from 9% in 2010 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2012). Nationally only 6% of nurses are African American and 3% are Hispanic (American Association of Colleges of Nursing [AACN], 2015). Thus, the lack of minority representation in the nursing workforce will become an even greater problem in the near future. Greater diversity in nurses can help reduce health disparities and deliver nurses who are competent to provide care to a diverse population. Increased emphasis has been placed on the need to have healthcare workers who are of the same ethnic and/or racial group to foster greater satisfaction, access, and quality of care (Katz, Barbosa-Leiker & Benavides-Vaello, 2016; AACN, 2015). These numbers lend more urgency to the 2008 National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses data which demonstrated the need to increase representation of minorities in the nation’s nursing workforce (Health Resources & Services Administration, 2010). These state and national statistics support the need to increase diversity in baccalaureate nursing programs and investigating variables that can address this need are critical for nursing education.

Non-academic variables such as emotional intelligence, self-efficacy, interpersonal skills, and critical-thinking ability have been demonstrated to affect student success in baccalaureate programs (Ritchie & Smith, 2015; Goodstone, et al., 2013). Nursing faculty discover that even students who are academically qualified for nursing school entrance may lack the emotional maturity associated with caring, empathy, critical thinking and commitment to professional standards. However, these variables are rarely measured as admission criteria to govern admission decisions. Emotional intelligence (EI) and critical thinking (CT) are two variables that can be measured with instruments that have good reliability and validity and have research that supports there is a positive impact based on nurses that have high scores in these areas. A dearth of research exists in determining if these variables are correlated with student success throughout nursing curriculum and ultimately NCLEX pass rates.

 The purpose of this presentation is to disseminate the findings of a quantitative longitudinal study designed to investigate the correlation between GPA, EI and critical thinking on student success in the first two semesters of a baccalaureate nursing program. Emotional intelligence scores were collected using the Mayer Salovey Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT). The critical thinking scores were collected using a customized Health Education Systems, Inc. (HESI) A2 exam. These non-traditional variables were also examined in relation to HESI specialty exam scores and course GPA which are currently used as outcome measures of student success.