Motivation and Persistence among BSN Students in Northeast Ohio: A Correlational Study

Monday, 9 November 2015: 3:15 PM

Christine Lynn Heid, PhD, MSN/Ed, BSN, RN, CNE
Department of Nursing, Ashland University Dwight Schar College of Nursing & Health Sciences, Mansfield, OH, USA

Objectives: 1) The learner will be able to describe the types of motivation and persistence behaviors reported by BSN students.  2) The learner will be able to identify two key strategies that educators, leaders, or policymakers may use to foster behaviors that may lead to nursing student success.

Introduction/Background:  As the demand for nurses increases and the supply declines, nurse educators must improve student success in the nursing program to graduate more professional nurses to fill this gap.  Motivation toward nursing studies is crucial to persistence and success in the nursing major.  The relationship between specific types of motivation (intrinsic, extrinsic, amotivation) and persistence behaviors have not been studied in BSN students.  Understanding the motivation and persistence behaviors of BSN students may inform the student success strategies employed by programs of nursing.

Statement of the Problem:  Nursing education issues, including recruitment and retention, have emerged in the nursing workforce and healthcare community.  Despite academic, social, and political demands for additional professional nurses, nursing shortages hinder the profession and compromise the ability to meet the healthcare needs of the nation.  Nevidjon and Erickson (2009) cited an increased need for nurses as contributory to the latest nursing shortage, placing demands on nursing education programs to graduate more nurses, faster.  With a growing geriatric population and improved access to care, the demand for nurses has never been higher (Auerbach, Staiger, Muench, & Buerhaus, 2013).  Insufficient new nurse graduates may contribute to this problem, due in part to high attrition rates and poor retention in nursing programs (Newton & Moore, 2009; Waters, 2006).  The current study sought to investigate individual and organizational mediators of retention, specifically academic motivation and persistence behaviors of nursing students, using a non-experimental, quantitative method and  descriptive, correlational design to better understand the role motivation and persistence played in nursing student success.

Theoretical Framework:  Conceptually, the study was guided by three distinct influences from nursing and educational psychology to incorporate the key concepts of interest: motivation and persistence.  Deci and Ryan’s (1985) Self-Determination Theory (SDT) described motivation to learn and goal-directed behavior among undergraduate students.  Motivation was viewed on a continuum of self-determination that formed the basis for the Academic Motivation Scale, which was used to measure motivation among BSN students in the current study.  King’s (1992) Theory of Goal Attainment provided a nursing theory perspective on student motivation as a secondary concept of goal attainment.  King’s (1981) Conceptual System described the phenomenon of nursing student motivation through the interpersonal, personal, and social systems of the student nurse and educator relationship.  Student goals were described as learning about nursing, succeeding in nursing school, and becoming a nurse.  Jeffreys’ (2004) Nursing Undergraduate Retention and Success model identified, supported, and addressed retention among nursing students, specifically distinguishing factors associated with persistence and success in nursing students.  In the study, persistence behaviors among nursing students were incorporated into the discussion of goal commitment and attainment.

Research Objectives:  The current study sought to investigate individual and organizational mediators of retention, specifically academic motivation and persistence behaviors of nursing students.  The primary research question was: What is the relationship between student academic motivation and student persistence behaviors in a baccalaureate nursing program? 

Subjects: One-hundred ninety-five participants from a mid-sized private university in northeast Ohio were selected using a purposive criterion sample that included all levels and tracks of the nursing program.  The sample was predominately female (87%, n=161), Caucasian (92.4%, n=171), between the ages of 18-22 (80.43%, n=171), and enrolled in the traditional track of the nursing program (88.6%, n=164).  

Methods: A non-experimental, quantitative method and descriptive, correlational design were used to better understand the role motivation and persistence played in nursing student success.  Data were collected using the 28-item Academic Motivation Scale (AMS), the 69-item College Persistence Questionnaire (CPQ), and a 7-item demographic survey.  Descriptive and correlational statistics using the Pearson product-moment coefficient r were used to describe the sample, variables, and test relationship between motivation and persistence behaviors.

Results:  Cronbach’s alpha was calculated for both questionnaires, indicating acceptable high reliability for the AMS (α = 0.798) and the CPQ (α = 0.746).  The relationship between academic motivation and persistence behaviors was tested using the Pearson product-moment correlation coefficient r, revealing a statistically significant finding between the academic motivation self-determination index (SDI) and the persistence behavior of academic integration (AI), r = .491, N = 189, p < .001.  .  Significant relationships were also found between SDI and the persistence behaviors of social integration, advising, institutional commitment, degree commitment, academic efficacy, and collegiate stress.  Findings of this study reveal a significant relationship between all three types of academic motivation (intrinsic, extrinsic, amotivation) and several persistence behaviors in BSN students. 

Conclusion:  The more self-determined motivation leads to meaningful behaviors (Vallerand et al., 1992) and the persistence behaviors of institutional commitment, academic integration and degree commitment have been found to predict retention (Davidson et al., 2009).  Autonomous motivations for nursing may include pursuing nursing as a means to care for others, make a difference, achieve in a meaningful way, gain job security, or as self-validation (Bernstein, Turrell, & Dana, 1965; Newton et al., 2009; Rognstad, 2002).  These characteristics indicated that autonomous, intrinsically derived motivations for nursing were consistent with students who felt a sense of integration, commitment, and support with their academic endeavors – they could see the relationship between what they were learning and a career in nursing.  Participants felt supported in their efforts and committed to their goal, therefore, they may have a greater chance of achieving success in the nursing program. 

Implications:  Nurse educators, leaders, and policymakers are encouraged to develop ways to facilitate behaviors that may lead to student nurse success.  Assessment strategies for promoting student success and program improvement are highlighted with specific suggestions offered to enhance student success through the mediation of motivational and persistence behaviors are suggested based upon the current literature and research findings.  

Future Research:  Secondary analysis of study data is currently underway and preliminary findings will be reported.

Keywords:  Academic Motivation; Persistence; Correlation; Bachelor of Science in Nursing; Higher Education; Ohio