Second degree students are an attractive market for schools of nursing for several reasons. Diers (1987) reported that second degree baccalaureate nursing students have a low attrition rate and Tierney (1979) found that they scored higher than generic students on most NLN tests and NCLEX exams. These students were found to be more interested in research than were generic baccalaureate nursing students (Smith, 1989). Feldman and Jordet (1989) reported that 65% of their second degree students intended to pursue graduate studies. This finding was supported by Tierney in that 28% of the second degree baccalaureate graduates of that school were currently enrolled in or had completed graduate studies.
All 18 second degree programs identified by our literature search and from NLN lists (Schroeder, 1989) were sent questionnaires. The return rate for existing programs was 88%, with 14 surveys returned to the researchers. Eight surveys were returned from schools having programs for second degree baccalaureate programs and six were from combined baccalaureate/graduate programs. Two of the schools indicated that they no longer had a special program for this population.
The designated schools of nursing were contacted by phone to determine the most appropriate person to provide this information and to establish a rapport with this individual. Surveys were then mailed to the contact person at each school. Data were entered onto a spreadsheet as the information was received.
A short two-page questionnaire was developed to collect data that would be helpful in developing a program tailored to the second degree student. The questionnaire consisted of 10 questions that required the respondent to fill in the answer, such as the number of years that the program was in existence and its enrollment.
This section was followed with openended questions regarding the factors that facilitated beginning the second degree option, impediments to developing the option, benefits from having the option, and problems that have developed since implementing the option. The questionnaire ended with space for additional comments.
Two types of programs were identified: second degree baccalaureate in nursing (BSN) and combined baccalaureate/graduate options. Combined option programs required the students to complete the clinical portion of the baccalaureate, then to progress through the master's degree or nursing doctorate program with or without conferring a baccalaureate degree.
Half of the BSN options offered parttime study; only a third of the combined options allowed this possibility. Most of the programs (n = 8) had been in existence for less then six years. The programs attracted students from all backgrounds. Only one program reported using a separate faculty to teach the second degree students.
It was important to note that most of the programs designed for the second degree students were located on either coast of the United States. Only two programs were located in the Midwest.
Analysis by type of program was useful because there were considerable differences in applicant numbers, student enrollments, availability of part-time study, and length of program. After dropping the high (800 applicants/year) and low (7 applicants) program outliers, it was found that the applicants per year to BSN options (x = 71) was higher than combined options (x = 44) and enrollment for BSN options (x = 34) was higher than combined options (x = 26). The high (long established) and low (new) combined program outliers were dropped because they skewed the data and it was felt that including them in the analysis would mislead the reader.
When asked for factors that facilitated program development and implementation, the most frequent response was that the faculty generated the idea and/or worked in creating the option. Having faculty involved in creating the options, using existing programs as models, support of the dean, coordination with admission offices, and advanced planning for increased student enrollment were key elements in program development and implementation.
Most frequently cited obstacles to option development and implementation were the lack of financial aid for these students, difficulty with competition for clinical sites, and faculty work overload. Inadequate program marketing and screening of students were also reported as problematic. One respondent warned against the use of a separate faculty for this option as it was discovered that it is more advantageous to have faculty teach in their area of expertise in both the generic and second degree programs.
Ripple effects on other school programs were generally seen as positive. Having both generic BSN for first degree students and "accelerated" BSN option for second degree BSN students allowed movement between the two options for students who needed to accelerate or slow their studies. Success with the second degree option served as a model for curriculum revision of the generic BSN option in one school. However, another respondent reported a split in the student body between students in the two BSN options due to the generic students resenting the accelerated pace for the second degree.
The development of more programs for second degree students would clearly benefit schools of nursing, students, and nursing in general. Many displaced workers may look toward nursing as a viable career path. The demand for second degree programs is clearly present. One school in this study reported 380 applicants for admission to 40 positions for second degree students per year with the average demand for admission across both the BSN and combined BSN/graduate options of 57 per year. With most of the second degree programs being located on either coast, this option should be especially attractive to schools of nursing located in Midwestern states.
The cost/benefits ratio of these options should also be attractive to schools of nursing. The same faculty teach in both generic and second degree options, with clinical sites being shared. The second degree option may also help reshape the generic curriculum. Reported difficulties could be remedied with careful screening of students and efforts to unify the students. By mainstreaming the second degree students with generic students whenever possible, cost benefits are even more obvious.
One recurrent theme is the difficulty in finding financial assistance for the second degree students. Diers ( 1987) reported that state funding is not available for the second degree student as the state commitment is to first degree students, and that students in combined options are excluded from federal scholarships and traineeships because they are not yet nurses. To ease this problem, students could apply for military service, Veterans Administration hospitals, or local hospital sponsorship to provide tuition and monthly stipends. Other sources of external funding are private foundations, individual loans, and/or alumni organizations.
One limitation to this study was the use of schools of nursing that were Usted in either the literature or in the NLN listing of accredited schools with options for second degree students. Some schools with new options for these students may have been missed because they have not yet attained NLN accreditation.
There is a current trend for schools of nursing to begin second degree options. Given the current economic situation, this is a win/win situation that benefits the second degree student, schools of nursing, the profession, and the community in general.
- Diers, D. (1987) When college grads choose nursing. American Journal of Nursing, 87, 1631-1637.
- Feldman, H., & Jordet, C. (1989). On the fest track. Nursing and Health Care, 10, 491493.
- Schraeder, B. (1989). Entry level graduate education in nursing: Master of science programs. In National League for Nursing, Perspectives in nursing (pp.33-39). New York: NLN.
- Smith, P. (1989). Non-nurse college graduates in a specialty master's program: A success program. Nursing and Health Care. 10, 495497.
- Tierney, C. (1979) An accelerated baccalaureate curriculum in nursing. In National League for Nursing, Innovative approaches to baccalaureate programs in nursing (pp. 41-50). New York: NLN.