Using Evidenced-Based Educational Practices to Improve Graduation Rates for RN-BSN Students From Disadvantaged Backgrounds

Friday, 28 July 2017: 3:50 PM

Janice E. Hawkins, PhD1
Lynn L. Wiles, PhD, MSN, BSN1
Karen A. Karlowicz, EdD, RN1
Kimberly Adams Tufts, ND2
(1)School of Nursing, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA, USA
(2)College of Health Sciences, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA, USA

A diverse and highly educated nursing workforce is essential to improve access to quality healthcare across the globe. The purpose of this presentation is to describe an educational model employing evidence-based educational practices to improve graduation rates of nursing students from socially and economically disadvantaged backgrounds. This model was developed with funding from the United States (U.S.) federal government via a nursing workforce diversity grant. The purpose of the grant project is to increase the number and diversity of baccalaureate-educated nurses from a resource limited community in the rural southern U.S. Structural, environmental and social supports are incorporated to facilitate student academic success.

Structural support is provided through several mechanisms. The students are admitted to the program as a single cohort. The single cohort format is a proven method to reduce attrition of RN-BSN nursing students (Davidson, Metzger, & Lindgren, 2011). Individualized advising, tuition assistance, and flexible scheduling provide further structural support. Because registered nurses report a lack of assistance with advising and enrollment procedures as barriers to returning to school for a baccalaureate degree (Altmann, 2011), one evidence-based strategy employed is individualized advising to assist students with degree planning and course enrollment navigation. Further evidence suggests that structural support such as tuition assistance, flexible scheduling and academic coaching are vital to the successful academic progression of registered nurses returning to school (Altmann, 2011; Davidson, Metzger, & Lindgren, 2011; Kern, 2014; Megginson, 2008). In our model, financial support is provided in the form of grant funded scholarships and tuition assistance from the hospital partner. Courses are delivered via an online distance-learning format that allows for course scheduling that does not conflict with work schedules and does not require travel to attend class. Additionally, access to tutors and online writing support provides students with academic support to help them succeed.

Environmental support is provided through office space for the faculty mentor and a dedicated study space for students, both of which are maintained within the hospital system. The study space contains a complete set of printed course textbooks and computers with a reliable Internet connection to ensure that students have access to the online university library and other online resources. Computer labs and library resources have been identified as factors that positively impact retention of RN-BSN students (Jeffreys, 2007; Kern, 2014). The study space also provides a convenient location for students to engage with each other as well as with faculty and peer mentors.

Social support is another factor identified by Jeffreys (2007) and Kern (2014) to reduce attrition in RN-BSN students. Formal social support includes a dedicated on-site faculty mentor as well as assigned peer mentors. The literature is replete with evidence of the impact of mentorship on positive academic progression and student achievement (Aponte, 2015; Millett, Stickler, & Wang, 2015; Murray, 2015; Tabloski, 2016).

Providing structural, environmental and social support for nurses continuing their education contributes to their success and ultimately results in advancing the nursing profession. The early evaluation of this educational model is positive. Enrollments and diversity of students from the targeted community have increased with current retention rates that are promising. Highly educated nurses from socially and economically disadvantaged backgrounds contribute to a more culturally aligned nursing workforce and better patient outcomes. Therefore, developing an evidence-based educational model to increase the number and diversity of baccalaureate-educated nurses in the workforce helps to advance the nursing profession and the healthcare needs of the global community.