Journal of Nursing Education

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BSN vs. Non-BSN Students and Success in Graduate Study

A Marilyn Sime, RN, PhD; Sheila A Corcoran, RN, MEd; Mary B Libera, RN, MEd

Abstract

Abstract

In this study, the entry and progression characteristics of graduate students (nurses) with baccalaureate degrees in fields other than nursing (non-BSN) were compared to characteristics of students whose baccalaureate degrees were in nursing (BSN). Subjects were students enrolled in the Graduate School at the University of Minnesota majoring in Nursing. Analyses showed that BSN and non-BSN students did not differ with respect to the entry or progression measures used. All non-BSN students who have been admitted have been successful in graduate study. The results of this study suggest the feasibility of serving the non-BSN population at the graduate level under certain circumstances.

Abstract

Abstract

In this study, the entry and progression characteristics of graduate students (nurses) with baccalaureate degrees in fields other than nursing (non-BSN) were compared to characteristics of students whose baccalaureate degrees were in nursing (BSN). Subjects were students enrolled in the Graduate School at the University of Minnesota majoring in Nursing. Analyses showed that BSN and non-BSN students did not differ with respect to the entry or progression measures used. All non-BSN students who have been admitted have been successful in graduate study. The results of this study suggest the feasibility of serving the non-BSN population at the graduate level under certain circumstances.

Is a baccalaureate degree in nursing essential for success in a Master's degree program in nursing? The faculty at the University of Minnesota School of Nursing faced this question early in the 1970s. At that time, the admission committee was receiving applications from an increasingly diverse population. Specifically, there seemed to be a marked increase in the number of nurses applying who had obtained baccalaureate degrees in fields other than nursing. Many colleges and universities in Minnesota and surrounding states were developing baccalaureate programs aimed specifically at the nurse population. Such programs claim to be "health related," but the major is not in nursing. Career mobility through advanced educational preparation in nursing was blocked for those nurses because of the admission criterion of completion of an NLN-accredited program with a major in nursing. The faculty recognized that criterion was a measure of the credentials of the program from which an applicant graduated rather than the capabilities of the individual applicant.

A review of the literature revealed no study of the success in graduate study of nurses with baccalaureate degrees in fields other than nursing (non-BSN students). A 1972 NLN publication (National League for Nursing, 1972) listed several schools that indicated a baccalaureate degree (only) was required for admission. The deans of these schools were contacted to ascertain if non-BSN applicants would be admitted and, if so, if any data were available on the performance of such students. In almost all instances where non-BSN applicants would be admitted, such students were required to take additional coursework, generally from the school's undergraduate nursing program. None of the schools admitting non-BSN students which responded to our query had systematically collected entry or performance data on such students.

There was, therefore, no empirical evidence we could identify to support or reject the contention that a baccalaureate degree in nursing was necessary for success in graduate study in nursing.

The faculty decided to modify the admission criteria to the Master's program provided that a project be initiated at the same time to systematically study the entry and progression characteristics of all graduate students. Funding was obtained. The new admission criteria effective Fall of 1975 were: (a) licensure as a registered nurse, (b) a baccalaureate degree in any discipline from an accredited college or university, and (c) a 3.0 minimum GPA on college level course work taken prior to application. In the case of an applicant with transcripts without grades, the Graduate School required scores at the 50th percentile or above on the Graduate Record Exam Aptitude Test.

One aspect of the project was to identify the predictive validity of selected criterion measures for the total population. Results of that aspect of the study are reported elsewhere (Sime, 1978; Sime & Corcoran, 1977; Sime, Corcoran, & Libera, 1983). The purpose of this paper is to report any differences on entry or progression measures between students with baccalaureate degrees in nursing (BSN students) and in fields other than nursing (non-BSN students).

METHOD

Measures

Entry Measures: The entry measures selected for study were baccalaureate grade-point average, an aptitude test, a measure of creativity, a measure of flexibility in thinking, and a measure of the quality of the decision-making process in clinical nursing.

The Undergraduate Assessment Program, administered by Educational Testing Service, offers an aptitude test which has been statistically equated with the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) Aptitude Test. The Undergraduate Program (UP) (1976) test provides verbal and quantative scores, as well as a combined score. A specific UP verbal score, for example, should predict a similar GRE verbal score. For this study the UP Aptitude Test was selected for use since it could be scheduled at our convenience, is slightly shorter in length, and less expensive than the GRE.

The Remote Associates Test was selected as a measure of creativity (Mednick & Mednick, 1967). The test is based on an associative interpretation of the creative thinking process. The task provides sets of three stimulus words remote in meaning from one another and asks the subject to find another word that can be associated with them all. For example, the three words "cookies, sixteen, and heart" would all be related to the answer "sweet."

The Formula Analysis Test Form AB, a research tool developed by Worthy (1967), was selected as a measure of "flexible and analytical thinking." It is a 15-minute, 27-item test consisting of word equations. For example, the item "4 L.C. = G.L." is solved as "4 leaf clover = good luck."

The Clinical Nursing Test (CNT) is a simulation of a decision-making process in clinical nursing (Mclntyre, et al., 1970). Five scoring systems have been developed which assess different aspects of the decision-making process: (a) the quality of the sequence of actions taken; (b) the correctness of actions chosen irrespective of sequence; (c) the level of decision making; (d) the riskvalue character of the actions chosen; and (e) proficiency, efficiency, and competency indices. The CNT was slightly modified for this project - sections requiring written responses were eliminated. The scoring systems used for this present analysis were those described in "b" and "e" above.

The entry measures, therefore, were: (a) baccalaureate GPA; (b) UP Aptitude test which provides a verbal score (UP-V) and a quantative score (UP-Q); (c) Remote Associates Test (RAT); (d) the Formula Analysis Test (FAT); and (e) the Clinical Nursing Test (CNT) which provides scores on errors of actions chosen and scores on proficiency, efficiency, and competency indices.

Progression Measures: The progression measures were: (a) cummulative grade point average in the Masters program at the end of two quarters of study (2nd Quarter GPA) and at the end of five quarters of study (5th Quarter GPA); (b) the final GPA in nursing coursework (Nursing GPA) and in coursework in other departments (Non-Nursing GPA); and (c) faculty ratings of the student's ability to use a systematic process, ability to develop a conceptual framework for nursing practice, openness to develop helping relationships, creativity, openness to evaluation by self or others, and over all competence as a graduate student. GPA was computed using a four-point system (A = 4, B = 3, C = 2, D = 1, F = 0). Faculty rating scores were obtained by asking faculty to rate students on a 7-point scale for each of the six characteristics described above. A score of 1 indicated the least competent as compared to other graduate students; a score of 7 indicated the most competent. Each student was rated by two to five different faculty; the score given to each student on each characteristic is the mean of the ratings given by faculty.

Subjects

The subjects were students enrolled in the Graduate School at the University of Minnesota and majoring in Nursing. The subjects entered the Master's program Fall of 1975, 1976, and 1977. The subjects were divided into two groups: (a) BSN students, which included those with BS or BA degrees with a major in nursing, public health nursing, nursing education, or the like; and (b) non-BSN students, which included those with BS or BA degrees in another discipline.

Procedure

Baccalaureate and Master's GPAs and faculty ratings were obtained on almost all of the 138 students admitted 1975 through 1977. Demographic data and scores on the other entry measures were obtained on volunteer subjects, which diminished considerably the size of the sample. Of the 17 non-BSN students admitted during the period of the study, data for all of the entry measures were available on only four subjects; the progression GPA measures were available on only seven, while faculty ratings were available on nine subjects. The size of the BSN sample varied from 28 to 49, depending upon the measure in question.

Previously reported analyses (Sime, et al., 1980) showed that the three groups admitted 1975 through 1977 did not differ significantly on any of the measures. It was decided, therefore, to pool all data for analysis.

Demographic characteristics of the BSN and nonBSN groups were analyzed first. Secondly, separate multivariate tests were performed on the data from the volunteer samples to determine differences obtained between the groups on the entry and progression measures. Finally, progression toward graduation is reported for all the non-BSN students admitted during the period of this study.

Table

TABLE 1ENTRY MEASURES ON CLINICAL NURSING TEST

TABLE 1

ENTRY MEASURES ON CLINICAL NURSING TEST

Table

TABLE 2ENTRY MEASURES ON GPA, FAT, RAT, AND UP APTITUDE TEST

TABLE 2

ENTRY MEASURES ON GPA, FAT, RAT, AND UP APTITUDE TEST

RESULTS

The BSN and non-BSN groups were compared on a number of demographic characteristics. The non-BSN group had a higher mean age (38 years vs. 31 years), a larger proportion of single persons (33% vs. 20%), and a larger proportion of males (11% vs. 4%) than the BSN group.

To determine if the two groups differed on scores on the Clinical Nursing Test (CNT), a multivariate test (Hotelling's T2) was carried out on the five CNT variables simultaneously to test the hypothesis of equal population mean vectors. Table 1 shows the scores on each of the CNT variables for the two groups. The multivariate analysis showed that the BSN and nonBSN groups did not differ from each other significantly on these measures, F (5, 26) = 1.29, p = .30. A similar multivariate analysis was performed on the other entry measures. Table 2 shows the scores on these measures. Analysis showed that the two groups did not differ from each other on these other entry measures, F (5, 45) = <l,p = .99.

To determine if the two groups differed on the progression measures, two more multivariate analyses were performed. Table 3 shows the mean Masters' GPAs for the two groups. Analysis revealed that the two groups did not differ with respect to these progression measures, F (4, 32) = < 1, p = .56. Likewise a similar analysis showed no difference on faculty ratings, F (6, 47) = < 1, p = .45. Table 4 shows the mean scored for the two groups on faculty ratings.

Finally, progression toward graduation of non-BSN students was explored. Of the 17 students admitted, ten (58.9%) have graduated and seven (41.1%) are currently enrolled and in good scholastic standing. None have dropped.

DISCUSSION

Although non-BSN studente tended to score slightly lower than BSN students on some of the entry measures, they scored slightly higher on all progression measures. Such differences, however, were not statistically significant. Moreover, when progression towards graduation is considered, non-BSN students show successful progression through this Master's program. There is empirical evidence, therefore, that nurses with baccalaureate degrees in fields other than nursing are successful in the Master's program in Nursing at the University of Minnesota. Furthermore, these students were successful despite the fact that no requirements different from those made of BSN students were made of this group. At this writing, we are continuing to admit non-BSN students - 16 students were admitted in 197879 and 15 students in 1979-80.

This specific study, of course, is not generalizable to other schools with different curricula who are or may wish to serve this population. The non-BSN students we are serving may or may not represent the population of nurses with baccalaureates in other fields and who are requesting graduate education in nursing.

The opening of admissions to non-BSN students raised some philosophical questions which were difficult for some of our faculty to deal with and which certainly are being debated by graduate faculties in other schools. Two of the major issues will be discussed here.

A number of our faculty believed on the basis of principle that a baccalaureate degree in nursing is the only acceptable academic base for graduate study in nursing. Others believed that serving a non-BSN population would signal a weakened commitment to our own baccalaureate program and further confuse the issue as to whether there is a difference in ADN, Diploma, and BSN preparation. It must be pointed out that this current study is not an evaluation of the basic nursing preparation received by any of the subjects. We know that students enter programs with qualities and characteristics which are not the product of their basic preparation alone. We feel that the non-BSN population we are serving is probably not typical of the diploma and ADN graduate. Our population tended to be older than the BSN students, with a larger proportion of single persons. The non- BSN students might be characterized as persons who have committed themselves to a career in nursing. They are no doubt highly motivated as evidenced by their persistence in moving up the career ladder. Finally, our admission requirement of a 3.0 GPA is probably high enough to screen out the nonBSN applicant whose inherent abilities aren't sufficient to do graduate work in the face of what some may believe to be an inadequate academic base.

A second issue which concerned a number of our faculty was the fear that the change in admission criteria which permitted serving non-BSN students would jeopardize our national accreditation. Such a result has not occurred. After the change in admission criteria, the School had an NLN accreditation visit and both the baccalaureate and Master's programs received continuing accreditation.

An acute need of nursing today is for increased numbers of professionals prepared at the master's level. One possible way to meet this need is to make possible the more rapid movement to this level of able and qualified nurses with baccalaureate degrees in other fields. We know that other graduate programs in nursing are considering the possibility of serving this population. We hope that schools which do, will also systematically study the success of such persons in graduate study and in their professional careers.

Table

TABLE 3PROGRESSION MEASURE: MASTER'S GPAs

TABLE 3

PROGRESSION MEASURE: MASTER'S GPAs

Table

TABLE 4PROGRESSION MEASURE. FACULTY RATINGS

TABLE 4

PROGRESSION MEASURE. FACULTY RATINGS

References

  • Mclntyre, H.M., McDonald, F.J., Bailey, J.T., & Claus, K. E. The development of a simulated clinical nursing test to assess problem solving behavior of baccalaureate students. San Francisco: University of California, School of Nursing, mimeograph, 1970.
  • Mednick, S. & Mednick, M. Examiner's Manual Remote Associates Test: College and Adult Forms 1 and 2. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1967.
  • National League for Nursing. Masters' Education: Route to Opportunities in Modern Nursing. New York: National League for Nursing, Department of Baccalaureate and Higher Degree Programs, 1972, Pub. No. 15-1312.
  • Sime, A.M. Prediction of success in a master's degree program in nursing. Psychological Reports, 1978, 42, 779-783.
  • Sime, A.M., & Corcoran, S.A. Entering Characteristics and Predictors of Success for Students in a Graduate Nursing Program. Final report of the Special Project Grant 5 DlO Nu 01161, University of Minnesota, School of Nursing, 1977.
  • Sime, A.M., Corcoran, S.A. & Libera, M. B. Predicting success in graduate nursing education. Journal of Nursing Education, 1983, 22 (1), 7-11.
  • Undergraduate Program (UP) Guide. Princeton, New Jersey: Educational Testing Service, 1976.
  • Worthy, M. The formula analysis test as a predictor of success in graduate school. Psychological Reports, 1967, 20, 36.

TABLE 1

ENTRY MEASURES ON CLINICAL NURSING TEST

TABLE 2

ENTRY MEASURES ON GPA, FAT, RAT, AND UP APTITUDE TEST

TABLE 3

PROGRESSION MEASURE: MASTER'S GPAs

TABLE 4

PROGRESSION MEASURE. FACULTY RATINGS

10.3928/0148-4834-19830501-03

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