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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

UAB Researcher Investigates Academic Needs of Nursing Students from Diverse Backgrounds

Although diversity within the nursing profession positively impacts the quality of care given to minority patients in particular — since it frequently fosters better communication and patient satisfaction — student nurses from diverse backgrounds often experience an elevated rate of attrition as a result of various issues, from minimal familial support to major financial burdens. In a recent study, Dr. Matthew Fifolt, assistant professor in the department of health care organization and policy at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, in collaboration with lead author Dr. Rhonda McLain, assistant professor in UAB’s School of Nursing, tested the efficacy of a self-assessment tool to engage students who are typically at risk of dropping out to assume greater responsibility for their successful educational performance.

[Photo: Dr. Matthew Fifolt]

With attrition rates for minority nursing students ranging from 15 to 85 percent — due to “inadequate educational preparation, poor test-taking skills, deficiencies in basic math and science skills, social isolation, absent or minimal family support, insufficient financial resources, and social and cultural differences between predominantly white faculty and diverse students”—steps previously employed to provide encouragement often include mentoring and peer tutoring, as well as support by faculty sensitive to cultural differences. The researchers designed a method for evaluating the conduct and practices of nursing students who show great potential but are perhaps at risk of failure because of the barriers listed above that could interfere with their academic goals. The investigators adapted a tool previously developed by the Enrichment Academy for Nursing Success (EANS) program faculty to an online Student Success Survey comprised of 50 questions. A total of 23 students ranging from 19 to 24 years old — 78 percent of whom were female, of which 56 percent were African American, 26 percent White, 23 percent Hispanic, and 4 percent Asian — completed the Student Success Survey to provide details on such factors as their study environment and habits, time management, memory, and test-taking abilities and anxiety, rated on a Likert scale measuring responses from “never” up to “always.”

The team concluded that “the Student Success Survey is a viable tool for assessing study habits of students who may be at high risk of failure. The survey proved to be a useful tool for counseling students who wanted to improve academic success. The survey also assisted with identifying students who had moderate to severe academic deficits in reading, writing and critical thinking and personal life-issues that interfered with academic performance.” Therefore, they strongly recommend that other nursing programs with at-risk students adopt this tool.

UAB co-investigators are Dr. Martha A. Dawson, assistant professor in the department of family, community and health systems; Dr. Wei Su, program manager in the evaluation and assessment unit; Dr. Gary Milligan, assistant professor in the School of Nursing; and Dr. Lisle Hites, associate professor in the department of health care organization and policy.

“Student Success Survey: Supporting Academic Success for At-Risk Nursing Students Through Early Intervention” was published online in September 2016 in the journal Nurse Educator.

Journal article: