Journal of Nursing Education

A Comparison of Selected Demographic Characteristics and Academic Performance of On-Campus and Satellite-Center RNs: Implications for the Curriculum

Eleanor McClelland, PhD, RN; Jeanette Daly, MS, EN

Abstract

ABSTRACT

This study compared two groups of RN students and noted that there is a difference between the profile of the on-campus student and the student in satellite areas. The demographic profile differences revealed that the RN students in satellite centers were slightly older, were employed, and worked more hours each week. They tended to work full-time, traveled farther to attend classes, had more children, and projected a longer time necessary to complete the SCN than their campus counterparts.

The academic profile differences revealed that the satellite center RN students had higher ACT-PEP mean scores and transfer GPAs than their on-campus peers. On-campus RN students had higher University of Iowa GPAs and higher grades in the Pathology course and Foundations of Nursing Practice course than satellite center RN students.

Abstract

ABSTRACT

This study compared two groups of RN students and noted that there is a difference between the profile of the on-campus student and the student in satellite areas. The demographic profile differences revealed that the RN students in satellite centers were slightly older, were employed, and worked more hours each week. They tended to work full-time, traveled farther to attend classes, had more children, and projected a longer time necessary to complete the SCN than their campus counterparts.

The academic profile differences revealed that the satellite center RN students had higher ACT-PEP mean scores and transfer GPAs than their on-campus peers. On-campus RN students had higher University of Iowa GPAs and higher grades in the Pathology course and Foundations of Nursing Practice course than satellite center RN students.

Introduction

The University of Iowa College of Nursing offers the baccalaureate of science degree in nursing (BSN), the master of arts degree (MA), and, since 1988, the doctor of philosophy degree (PhD). For many years, RN students have completed the BSN on campus. In 1985, the College of Nursing received funding for 3 years from the Division of Nursing, Department of Health and Human Services, through a Special Projects Grant to establish three outreach sites for RN students, Teleconvenor Satellite Program Centers for RNs."

Invitations to establish the three sites (Mason City, Waterloo-Cedar Falls, and Burlington) came from local nursing leaders and a community college administrator. In addition to the invitations, site selection was based on a needs study that included distance from the main campus, availability of local 2- or 4-year institutions to provide support courses, and adequacy of library resources and clinical sites.

The general purpose of this study was to compare and contrast certain demographic characteristics of RN students enrolled on campus at The University of Iowa with those enrolled in the outreach satellite centers. The main rationale for conducting such a study is the relative lack of information regarding factors that contribute to the successful completion of the baccalaureate degree in nursing by registered nurse students in outreach satellite centers.

Research Questions

The following research questions were considered for this study:

* Is academic performance the same for RN students on campus and in satellite programs?

* Are demographic characteristics the same for RN students on campus and in satellite programs?

* Does selected academic performance prior to enrollment in courses at The University of Iowa have an effect on grades received in Pathology or Foundations of Nursing Practice?

* Is this effect different for RN students on campus and in satellite programs?

* Do selected demographic characteristics effect the grades received in Pathology?

* Is this effect different for RN students on campus and in satellite programs?

* Why did the RN students return to school?

* Will the BSN facilitate a career advancement for the RN students?

* What comments do RN students have about the RN-BSN program?

Review of Literature

A number of studies have described RN students who have returned to school for the BSN (American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 1988; Baj, 1985; Dustan, 1981; Fotos, 1987; Jackson, 1984; Johnson, 1989). A variety of RN characteristics including RN support systems, RN demographic characteristics, motivational factors, and financial support have been documented.

In 1988, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) published the results of a national study that included 742 RN senior nursing students of whom 93% were female, with a mean age of 36. The majority (60%) were married and over half (55%) had children. The main reason given for returning to school for the BSN was an opportunity for career and educational mobility (87%). Other reasons included a desire for a bachelor's degree (85%), more opportunity for personal and professional growth and development (77%), and current employment limitations (66%). All respondents had a GPA higher than 2.74 with 73% reporting a GPA between 3.25 and 4.00. Students enrolled part-time had a mean completion time for the baccalaureate degree of 3.75 years compared to 3.5 years for those enrolled full-time.

Fotos (1987) surveyed 57 full-time and part-time RN students enrolled in upper division nursing classes at Marshall University, Huntington, West Virginia. The sample included 56 females and one male; 58% were 25 years or older with an average age of 27.5 years; they had practiced nursing for an average of 4 years; and 79% of the sample were employed an average of 33.2 hours/week. Fifty-six percent of the students were married, 30% had dependent children at home, and 39% drove over 15 miles one way to attend classes. Motivational factors for returning to school were listed in the following order:

* to earn a degree,

* to keep up-to-date professionally,

* to satisfy an inquiring mind,

* to learn something new, and

"to acquire credentials for my record."

Characteristics of RN students were compared and contrasted with traditional junior and senior baccalaureate nursing students by Baj (1985). Twelve colleges and universities in California participated in the survey with 3,421 students eligible to participate. Questionnaires were distributed randomly to 530 students with a resultant N of 251.

Findings revealed that 82% of the traditional students were full-time students, 35% married or divorced, 42% received financial aid, and 67% came from a family whose mother's education did not continue beyond high school. In contrast, 40% of the RNs were full-time students, 57% married or divorced, 14% received financial aid, and 46% came from a family whose mother's education did not continue beyond high school.

Twenty-eight percent of the traditional students had one or more dependents compared to 38% of the RNs. Comparing engagements or marriages, 23% traditional students were engaged or married compared to 11% registered nurse students. Registered nurse students were older than traditional students (32 vs. 23 years) and worked more hours/week (27.07 vs. 11.49 hours). Registered nurse students missed fewer days of school (1.09 vs. 2.22 mean). Traditional students had mean GPAs of 3.32 compared to 3.16 for registered nurse students.

Specific information revealed that 51% had been registered nurses for 6 or more years; 25% for 3 to 5 years, and roughly 15% for 1 year. Eighty-two percent worked in acute care settings with 33% holding head nurse or assistant head nurse positions. About 50% of the RNs gave career mobility as major reason for returning to school.

Jackson's (1984) descriptive study surveyed 195 RNs enrolled at the University of Victoria, Canada, in 19771979 and 1982. Findings indicated that the mean age was 28.5 years in 1977 and 31.6 years in 1982. In 1977, 36% of the students were single, 41% were married, and 18% were divorced. In 1982, 51% of the students were single, 41% were married, and 18% were divorced. For both years, 67% of the students were from diploma programs and 63% had enrolled in the completion program within 10 years of graduating from their basic program. In 1977, 25% of the students had worked for more than 7 years compared to 51% of the students in 1982.

Motivational factors for returning to school for the 1977-1979 students were ranked in the following order: to increase nursing knowledge,

* to obtain a promotion,

* to give better nursing care,

* to work in community health,

* to obtain a degree in 2 years, and

* to avoid working shifts.

There was a change in response for the 1982 students. To give better nursing care ranked the lowest and to avoid working shifts moved into second position. The final measurement demonstrated that family and friends outside of nursing were the main emotional source of support for the students.

Dustan (1981) summarized the characteristics of RN students. She described typical registered nurse students as married and working in a staff nurse position. More of the students were graduates of diploma programs than associate degree in nursing (ADN) programs. These students wanted to continue working full-time and to pursue a degree on a part-time basis. They did not want to travel more than 50 miles to accomplish this goal.

Another profile of RN students was completed by Zorn (1980). A survey of 210 students at the Youngstown State University in Ohio indicated that 63% of returning RN students were from diploma programs compared to 37% from ADN and .6% working on a second degree. The average age of students was 33 years, the majority were working, with one third of the students employed in the hospital. The cumulative grade point average was above 2.6 for 83% of the students.

Methods

Approval for obtaining the data from academic records and administering the telephone survey was received from the Human Subjects Review Subcommittee in the College of Nursing, The University of Iowa, prior to beginning the data collection. To obtain additional information and missing data, RN students were contacted by telephone. At the time of the telephone interview, students were told that data would be presented in group tabulation and that confidentiality would be maintained.

Sample

The sample included 72 RN students on campus and in satellite areas who had taken one or more of the required three baccalaureate-level American College Testing Proficiency Examination Program (ACT-PEP) tests (Adult Nursing, Maternal and Child Nursing, and Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing). One student declined to participate in the follow-up telephone survey.

Instrument

Information obtained by telephone included additional demographic characteristics, the reason for seeking the baccalaureate degree, whether the BSN would facilitate a promotion, and any comments about the RN-to-BSN program. Additional demographic characteristics included questions such as the number of miles travelled one way to attend class. Academic performance data collected from the student record included ACT-PEP test scores, transfer GPA, grade for Pathology course, grade for Foundations of Nursing Practice course, The University of Iowa GPA, and the cumulative GPA.

Grades for all courses taken in the satellite centers are assigned as part of the total course which includes on-campus students. Faculty assign grades as a team for all students on campus and in satellite centers. Reinforcement of classroom and clinical content occurs at each satellite center by on-site faculty.

Analysis of data

Data were analyzed using the microcomputer software program, Systat. Pearson's product-moment correlation, chi-square, and Student's i test were used for bivariate analysis. Performance in the program was measured by the mean of two grades received in the Foundations of Nursing Practice course and Pathology course. The difference in academic performance of the RN students in two sites was analyzed by an analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) method. Variables relevant to formation of the mean of the two course grades, Pathology and Foundations of Nursing Practice, were considered in ANCOVA.

Table

TABLE 1Comparison of RN Students by Employment Position, Employment Status, and Type of Original Nursing

TABLE 1

Comparison of RN Students by Employment Position, Employment Status, and Type of Original Nursing

Results

The majority of the registered nurse students were female; one of the 37 satellite students was male; two of the 34 students on campus were male. Of the total sample, 36 were diploma graduates and 35 were ADN graduates. Of the 71 observations, 57 had a Pathology course grade, 50 had a Foundations of Nursing Practice course grade, and 48 had both.

The employment positions held by the two groups of students were not statistically different. Table 1 shows the calculation of RN students on campus and in satellite centers working full-time, part-time, or not working, which was statistically significant (<.01). A category of "other" is noted in Table 1; an example of this category would be Director of Staff Development or Nurse Clinician II. No significant difference in the proportion of the type of original nursing program attended by the RN student either on campus or in satellite centers was noted.

Table 2 compares the means and standard deviations of the demographic data for students in the satellite areas and on campus. Satellite students projected a significantly (<.01) longer length of time (5.7 years) te complete the program than identified by on-campus students (3.9 years). Satellite students worked significantly (<.01) longer hours (32) compared to those on-campus students whose week averaged 24 hours. Satellite students reported having significantly (<.05) more children ( 1.6) than those on campus (.9) and driving further to attend nursing classes, 24 miles one way compared to 10.4 miles one way for on-campus students (<-05). There was no significant difference in mean age of the satellite students (35 years) and the on-campus students (32 years).

Table

TABLE 2Mean and Standard Deviation of Selected Demographic Data

TABLE 2

Mean and Standard Deviation of Selected Demographic Data

Table

TABLE 3Mean and Standard Deviation of Selected Academic Characteristics for RN Students

TABLE 3

Mean and Standard Deviation of Selected Academic Characteristics for RN Students

Table

TABLE 4Pearson's Correlation Coefficient

TABLE 4

Pearson's Correlation Coefficient

Table 3 reflects the mean score of the grades for on-campus and satellite-area students. Students in the satellite areas had a higher mean calculation on two of the three ACT-PEP tests (p<.05), and a higher transfer GPA (p<.05), as compared to on-campus students.

Positive correlations were observed between the dependent variable, the mean of the two course grades, Pathology and Foundations of Nursing Practice, and the transfer GPA, and the mean of the three ACT-PEP scores. Very weak negative correlations were observed between the dependent variable and the three variables: time in the program to complete the baccalaureate degree, age, and hours worked per week. Table 4 shows the Pearson's correlation coefficients.

Table

TABLE 5Results From Analysis of Covariance. Dependent Variable: Mean of Two Course Grades*

TABLE 5

Results From Analysis of Covariance. Dependent Variable: Mean of Two Course Grades*

ANCOVA revealed a significant difference in the average of the two grades between the two sites (p<.05) after controlling for age and the mean of the three ACT-PEP test scores (also significantly related with the average of the two grades [p<.001]). Further analysis on individual scores revealed that the significant difference was mostly in the Foundations of Nursing Practice course (p>.05) rather than the Pathology course (p>.10). Students on campus received higher grades in the Foundations of Nursing Practice course. Age was included in the model because it is an important demographic factor.

All students were asked if they would hike to make any comments about the RN-to-BSN Program. All but 10 chose to comment. The essence of the responses was that the students enrolled in the satellite centers were pleased with the opportunity to return to school, which they would not have had otherwise. On-campus students commented about the need for greater flexibility with course scheduling for the nontraditional student.

When asked if the BSN was required for their current job, 60 (of those who were employed) stated the BSN was not required for their current position, two said the BSN was required, and three stated the BSN was preferred. When asked if the BSN would facilitate a promotion, 43 stated the BSN would not facilitate a promotion. Thirteen did not know if a promotion would be facilitated.

Students indicated a variety of reasons for returning to school, including:

* always wanted a BSN,

* were not adequately prepared,

* wanted to teach nursing,

* wanted to gain confidence,

* liked education,

* wanted to advance,

* felt a degree offered mobility,

* felt a degree would be a future requirement for censure,

* wanted self-fulfillment,

* felt a job position will require it, and

* husband was hi school.

The most frequent response was "always wanted a BSN" (19 RN students). The next two most frequently stated responses were for "advancement* (13), and "offers mobility* (10).

Implications

The results of this study indicate some significant differences between RN students on campus and in satellite centers. Advanced curricula planning needs to be implemented using the latest technologies available for education of the RN student. Specific areas for consideration for the RN student are: increased flexibility of course scheduling, transfer course accessibility, guided correspondence study, use of innovative technologies, and academic and professional advisement.

Flexible course scheduling was a need identified by the RN students when asked to make comments about the RN-to-BSN program. The employed students (92% in this sample) want courses scheduled so they can continue full-time employment. The traditional course schedule of meeting three times weekly for 1 hour is not convenient for the employed student. Students preferred meeting once every week for a block of time, or condensing courses from 8 weeks to 6 weeks in the summer. Other suggestions were courses in the evenings or on the weekends, or every other weekend for those who work weekends. All of these different strategies have been implemented for RN students in various nursing programs. It is important that the students enrolled in the program have input for their preference in class scheduling.

While it is difficult to justify the cost of taking courses off-campus, it can be cost-effective to use the latest technology in telecommunications. On-campus faculty have used a variety of telecommunication strategies including audiotaped lectures, two-way audiotelebridge, and videotapes to transmit content presented on campus to the satellite centers. Additionally, the presence of an on-site faculty member and the planned "telephone office hours* for satellite center students with on-campus faculty make distance learning a viable alternative. Some courses are available by correspondence study, which provides added flexibility for RN students.

Transfer accessibility of courses is important for the RN student, so that content is not duplicated and excessive hours are not accumulated by graduation. Currently, the Iowa Board of Nursing has established an Articulation in Nursing Education Committee to develop and implement a plan for statewide articulation to ease progression of RN students to baccalaureate nursing programs. This should provide incentives for RN students seeking the BSN.

Current technologies should be used for the RN student. The University of Iowa and Iowa's community colleges have signed an agreement to cooperate in a satellite video link. This project makes courses available to the entire state, enabling the institutions to share resources, to trim costs, and to minimize duplication. Didactic portions of nursing courses may be delivered via satellite video telecommunications systems to reach areas where the BSN is not available.

Careful planning and collaboration are needed between the University and community colleges to develop a plan for the satellite video telecommunications system. Specific contact persons identified by each of the involved institutions will help with continuity and ease of implementation.

Faculty and staff need to be prepared to advise RN students appropriately about the BSN. Key personnel should be identified to enhance the articulation process. Lists of comparable prerequisite courses that transfer to the institution from community colleges should be available to the students prior to transfer and used during the advising process. Planning a course schedule should be individualized and each student should be involved in the scheduling process. The on-site faculty are important support persons for the RN student.

Conclusion

This study compared two groups of RN students and noted a difference between the profile of the on-campus student and the student in the satellite areas. The demographic profile differences revealed that the RN students in satellite centers were slightly older, were employed, and worked more hours per week; they tended to work full-time, traveled farther to attend classes, had more children, and projected a longer time needed to complete the BSN than their counterparts on campus.

The academic profile differences revealed that the satellite center RN students had higher ACT-PEP mean scores and transfer GPAs than their on-campus peers. On-campus RN students had higher University of Iowa GPAs and higher grades in the Pathology course and Foundations of Nursing Practice course than RN students in satellite centers.

ANCOVA indicated that there was a significant difference in grades received on campus and in the satellite areas. The students in the satellite areas received lower grades but were also employed more hours, had more children, drove more miles to attend class, and took longer to complete the baccalaureate degree. Further analysis will be done as students continue to graduate from the RN-to-BSN program.

Limitations of this study include the small number of subjects, and only two course grades were used for the dependent variable. Future analysis will include RN-toBSN graduates with all course grades available for interpretation.

References

  • American Association of Colleges ofNursing. ( 1988X RN Baccalaureate Nursing Education (1986-1988). Washington, DC: Author.
  • Baj, P.A. (1985). Demographic characteristics of RN and generic students: Implications for curriculum. Journal of Nursing Education, 24, 230-236.
  • Dustan, L.C. (1981). Buyer beware: The RN baccalaureate student. Nurse Educator, 6, 10-13.
  • Fotos, J.C. (1987). Characteristics of RN students continuing their education in a BS program. The Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing, 18, 118-122.
  • Jackson, M. (1984). Entry characteristics of post-RN students: Implications for the future. The Canadian Nurse, 81, 20-25.
  • Johnson, J.H. (1988). Differences in the performance of baccalaureate, associate degree, and diploma nurses: A meta-analysis. Research in Nursing & Health, 11, 183-197.
  • Zorn, J.M. (1980). A research profile of today's baccalaureate nursing student. The Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing, 11(2), 7-9.

TABLE 1

Comparison of RN Students by Employment Position, Employment Status, and Type of Original Nursing

TABLE 2

Mean and Standard Deviation of Selected Demographic Data

TABLE 3

Mean and Standard Deviation of Selected Academic Characteristics for RN Students

TABLE 4

Pearson's Correlation Coefficient

TABLE 5

Results From Analysis of Covariance. Dependent Variable: Mean of Two Course Grades*

10.3928/0148-4834-19910601-07

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