Journal of Nursing Education

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Faculty Support and Student Retention

Elisabeth N Shelton, DNSc, RN

Abstract

ABSTRACT

A study was conducted to explore the relationship between nursing students' perceived faculty support and nursing student retention. The 458 associate degree nursing students who participated were categorized according to their persistence- those who had persisted continuously throughout a nursing program, those who had withdrawn voluntarily at some time during a program, and those who had been required to withdraw because of academic failure. Perceived faculty support was measured by scores on the Perceived Faculty Support Scale, an instrument developed by the researcher for this study. A factor analysis of the instrument revealed two factors- psychological support, directed at promoting a sense of competency and self-worth, and functional support, directed at the achievement of tasks to reach the goals of persistence and academic success. Analysis of variance revealed persistence group differences in perceived faculty support. Students who reported greater perceived faculty support were more likely to persist throughout a nursing program than students who withdrew either voluntarily or because of academic failure. To promote retention of nursing students, faculty need to provide the caring atmosphere of a mentoring relationship and direct assistance to facilitate student learning.

Abstract

ABSTRACT

A study was conducted to explore the relationship between nursing students' perceived faculty support and nursing student retention. The 458 associate degree nursing students who participated were categorized according to their persistence- those who had persisted continuously throughout a nursing program, those who had withdrawn voluntarily at some time during a program, and those who had been required to withdraw because of academic failure. Perceived faculty support was measured by scores on the Perceived Faculty Support Scale, an instrument developed by the researcher for this study. A factor analysis of the instrument revealed two factors- psychological support, directed at promoting a sense of competency and self-worth, and functional support, directed at the achievement of tasks to reach the goals of persistence and academic success. Analysis of variance revealed persistence group differences in perceived faculty support. Students who reported greater perceived faculty support were more likely to persist throughout a nursing program than students who withdrew either voluntarily or because of academic failure. To promote retention of nursing students, faculty need to provide the caring atmosphere of a mentoring relationship and direct assistance to facilitate student learning.

There is a growing shortage of RNs in many parts of the United States, which is expected to worsen in the near future. This is attributable to many factors, including the aging RN workforce and the decline in the number of applicants to nursing programs. Many RNs who began their careers in the 1970s will be retiring within the next decade or two. It is estimated that by 2010, 40% of working RNs will be older than age 50 (Buerhaus, Staiger, & Auerbach, 2000). In addition, since 1973, there has been a 40% decrease in the percentage of college freshmen who choose nursing as a career (Buerhaus et al., 2000). As nurses retire and the supply of nurses is not replenished by new graduates, the nursing shortage will worsen. By the year 2020, it is projected that there will be 20% fewer nurses than are required to care for the aging population (Staiger, Auerbach, & Buerhaus, 2000).

Nursing programs compete for qualified applicants because highly qualified, traditionally female applicants are seeking other career choices (Holtz & Wilson, 1992; Staiger et al., 2000). Women with the highest grade point averages (GPAs) in high school are choosing traditionally male-dominated professional occupations, such as medicine and law. The high school academic performance of women choosing nursing as a career has declined (Staiger et al., 2000).

Compared to 20 years ago, students entering nursing programs today are likely to be older, have more family responsibilities, be employed in addition to attending college, and have been out of high school for at least several years (Jeffreys, 1998). Many of these nontraditional students begin their nursing education in associate degree programs, which offer an affordable choice in terms of both time and financial resources required to complete the program (Auerbach, Buerhaus, & Staiger, 2000). Although the number of these nontraditional students entering higher education programs is increasing, the percentage of those who persist to graduation is estimated to be lower than for traditional students (Tinto, 1993).

The future of nursing depends on attracting qualified applicants to nursing schools, and recruitment and retention of nursing students concerns the vast majority of nursing schools. The National League for Nursing Center for Research in Nursing Education and Community Health (1997) reported declining enrollment and graduation rates in all three levels of entry into nursing- diploma, associate degree, and baccalaureate. The National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) guidelines for associate degree and baccalaureate programs emphasize student retention and have set a standard of 80% as a desirable retention rate (NLNAC, 1996a, 1996b). Currently, many nursing programs are devoting considerable time and resources to the recruitment of students. However, it is not enough for nursing programs to attract qualified applicants. They also must provide resources to facilitate success so students will continue in the program, graduate, and become competent, caring members of the nursing profession.

Retention in a nursing program requires that students both persist by choosing to remain in the program and succeed by attaining a predetermined level of academic performance (Tinto, 1993). Factors that have influenced students' academic performance in the past (i.e., intrapersonal psychological factors and external support factors in the students' environment) influence both their choice to persist and their attainment of academic success.

This article discusses the relationship between nursing student retention and students' perceptions of the support provided by nursing faculty. Nurse educators must identify types of faculty support that facilitate student persistence and academic performance. Although previous studies have identified faculty behaviors that nursing students perceive to be supportive, and reports of faculty advisement programs exist in the literature, there is a lack of empirical evidence demonstrating the relationship between faculty support and student retention in nursing programs. Studies that have provided evidence of the relationship between faculty support and student retention have been conducted primarily with non-nursing students (Campbell & Campbell, 1997; Pascarella, Duby, & Iverson, 1983; Pascarella & Terenzini, 1980). The generalizability of these studies to nursing students is problematic because the education of nursing students extends beyond the classroom into the clinical setting. The results of this study provide empirical evidence of the relationship letween faculty support and retention of associate degree nursing (ADN) students, in which interaction between faculty and students occurred in both the classroom and clinical setting.

CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK

The conceptual framework for this study was a synthesis of Bandura's (1997) theory of self-efficacy and Tinto's (1993) theory of student retention into the Shelton Model of Student Retention. This model considers the combined influences of students' past experiences, intrapersonal psychological factors, and external support factors in the academic and nonacademic environment as predictors of persistence and academic performance by students, which, in turn, determine student retention.

Bandura's Theory of Self-Efficacy

Self-efficacy is the belief in one's abilities to plan and carry out courses of action required to produce desired results (Bandura, 1997). It includes two componentsself-efficacy expectations and outcome expectations, which are beliefs about whether behavior is likely to lead to a particular outcome and whether the outcome is worth pursuing. Self-efficacy expectations are beliefs about one's ability to successfully perform a given behavior. These efficacy expectations influence outcome expectations, which are beliefs about the consequences that wül result from the performance of the behavior (Bandura, 1997). Expectations of a person's efficacy determine whether behavior will be initiated, how much effort will be expended, and how long the effort will be sustained in the presence of obstacles. People with greater self-efficacy will persist longer because they believe they are able to eventually succeed (Bandura, 1997).

Bandura's (1997) theory of self-efficacy is psychological, involving internal processes within individuals that interact with the environment to influence behavior. These internal processes affect and are affected by the environment and prior experiences. Individuals' motivation to pursue a course of action and the way they make use of environmental supports are affected by self-efficacy.

Tinto's Theory of Student Retention

Tinto's (1993) theory of student retention proposed that student persistence is related to the degree of integration students attain within an institution. Integration is the incorporation of individuals into a community and the feeling experienced by individuals that they fit into the community of which they are a part (Tinto, 1993). It is associated with students' perception of fit with both the formal, academic domain and the informal, nonacademic domain of the institution. The academic and nonacademic domains are incorporated into the groups that comprise the overall educational community, including students, faculty, administration, and student services. For integration to occur, students must have adequate interactions and feel that their abilities, goals, and values are similar to others within the institution. Having insufficient personal interaction with others within the institution or having divergent abilities, goals, or values results in lack of integration.

Integration determines whether individuals perceive the benefits to be greater than the costs of persisting and remaining enrolled in the institution. If individuals perceive the benefits are not worth the costs, varying forms of dropout behavior will result, including transferring to a different institution, leaving higher education voluntarily, or failing academically (Tinto, 1993).

Tinto's (1993) theory is sociological and considers students part of a system (i.e., the academic community). According to Tinto (1993), what happens within the environment of the academic community influences students' persistence and academic achievement.

The Shelton Model of Student Retention

The Shelton Model of Student Retention (Figure) incorporates elements of internal psychological processes with external environmental supports to predict academic performance and persistence. It depicts the application of Bandura's (1997) theory to the specific outcome of student retention and combines the psychological and sociological perspectives. Internal psychological processes influence how students seek and use environmental supports within the systems of which they are part.

Background variables are factors that have influenced students' academic performance in the past and help determine whether students seek admission to a college and are accepted. These also have been identified as risk factors in studies of student attrition (Aber & Arathuzik, 1996; Allen, Higgs, & Holloway, 1988; Bean & Metzner, 1985; Brennan, Best, & Small, 1996; Campbell & Davis, 1990; Hudepohl & Reed, 1984; Jeffreys, 1998; Kornguth, Frisch, Shovein, & Williams, 1994; Reed & Hudepohl, 1983; Rosenfeld, 1987; Sherrod & Harrison, 1994; Tinto, 1993). Background variables include gender, past coursework, past GPA, preadmission test scores, financial resources, family educational level, family responsibilities, marital status, and employment status (Bean & Metzner, 1985; Tinto, 1993). According to the Shelton Model, students who are at risk for attrition, based on their backgrounds, still may persist and achieve a satisfactory GPA if they have internal resources related to persistence and academic success and if they use the external supports available to them.

Internal variables are psychological factors within students that influence their current academic performance and persistence. These factors influence why students enter and strive to achieve in a nursing program, whether success is expected, whether success is likely given students' ability, whether students perceive the benefits of continuing in the program to be worth the costs, and how students use the external supports available. Internal variables include academic and career goals, goal commitment, academic self-efficacy, and ability (Bandura, 1997; Tinto, 1993).

External support variables are factors in the environment that help students persist and be successful academically (Bean & Metzner, 1985). There are two types of support. Psychological support involves promoting a sense of competence and self-worth, and functional support involves engaging in behaviors that help students perform tasks and achieve goals. Sources of support may come from within and outside an academic institution. Sources outside an institution include family, peers, and employers. Sources within an institution include faculty, learning support, counseling, and peers (Bean & Metzner, 1985; Tinto, 1993). Nurse educators can do little to influence the support students receive outside an institution, but they can directly facilitate student persistence and academic success through their interactions with students. In this study, the relationship between faculty support and student retention was explored.

LITERATURE REVIEW

Faculty support is the support that results from teacher-student interactions. Griffith and Bakanauskas (1983) compared the teacher-student relationship to the nurse-client relationship, in which development of trust and support are essential to the establishment of a therapeutic, working relationship. Outcomes of a positive teacher-student relationship include professional socialization, self-actualization, self-fulfillment, improved selfconcept, and enhanced motivation for learning. According to Griffith and Bakanauskas (1983), caring is an essential part of the teacher-student relationship, just as it is essential to the nurse-client relationship. For students to exhibit caring in their practice, they must experience it themselves through their interactions with nursing faculty.

Studies of non-nursing students have demonstrated a relationship between faculty support and student persistence. Pascarella and Terenzini (1979, 1980) found that informal interactions with faculty outside the classroom and perception of faculty concern for student development and teaching predicted freshman year persistence in traditional undergraduate students. This also was true in a later study of commuter students (Pascarella et al., 1983). Campbell and Campbell (1997) found that faculty mentoring was significantly related to students' academic performance, as well as students' decision to persist during their first year at a university. Mentored students had higher GPAs and were less likely to withdraw than nonmentored students. Both the number of mentor-student contacts and the amount of contact time were positively related to GPA.

In the nursing literature, faculty advisement programs have been identified as being developed to decrease student attrition and improve academic performance. Characteristics of these programs include early and frequent contact with students, providing help with course selection and registration, monitoring academic progress, helping with problem identification, providing academic assistance with course content and study skills, referring students for appropriate learning support and counseling services, facilitating goal setting, and helping students prepare for licensure examinations (Campbell & Davis, 1990; Courage & Godbey, 1992; Hughes, 1988; Parks & Kirkpatrick, 1996; Reed & Hudepohl, 1983; Saucier, 1995; Sherrod & Harrison, 1994; Thurber, Hollingsworth, Brown, & Whitaker, 1989). The efficacy of these programs has not been documented empirically.

Student Perceptions of Faculty Support

Student perceptions of faculty support include faculty behaviors that students find helpful and the adequacy of the support received. O'Reilly-Knapp (1994) found that baccalaureate nursing students received significantly less faculty support than they desired during clinical experiences, concluding that some students may not seek the help and support they need.

Various faculty behaviors have been described by students as supportive and helpful. Some of these behaviors are psychologically supportive to students, helping them gain a sense of competency and self- worth, while other behaviors are functionally supportive and are directed at the achievement of tasks to reach students' goals.

Psychologically supportive faculty behaviors identified by students include caring and understanding, being approachable, encouraging students, demonstrating interest in students, having realistic expectations, listening, conveying confidence in and respect for students, being nonjudgmental, being honest and direct, being open to differing points of view, and wanting students to succeed (Bergman & Gaitskill, 1990; Brown, 1981; Coleman & Thompson, 1987; Hanson & Smith, 1996; Hughes, 1992; Mogan & Knox, 1987; Myton, Alien, & Baldwin, 1992; Nehring, 1990; Reed & Hudepohl, 1983; Shaefer & Schaefer, 1993; Sieh & Bell, 1994; Thurber et al., 1989). Functionally supportive faculty behaviors identified by students include being available to students, helping in new situations without taking over, communicating clear and reasonable expectations, presenting information clearly, providing helpful feedback, using fair evaluation methods, helping with problem identification and resolution, serving as role models, and helping in planning for the future (Bergman & Gaitskill, 1990; Brown, 1981 Coleman & Thompson, 1987; Hanson & Smith, 1996 Hughes, 1992; Mogan & Knox, 1987; Myton et al., 1992. Nehring, 1990; Reed & Hudepohl, 1983; Shaefer & Schaefer, 1993; Sieh & Bell, 1994; Thurber et al., 1989).

Research Question

The following research question was explored in this study, "Is there a relationship between perceived faculty support and student retention in ADN students?"

METHOD

Sample

The sample (N = 458) was obtained from nine NLNACaccredited ADN programs in Pennsylvania and New York. Eight of the participating programs were in community colleges, and one was in a liberal arts college with both an ADN and an upper division baccalaureate nursing program. One program was located in a large; urban area; one was in a metropolitan area surrounding a large city; one was located in a rural area; and six were in small cities. The senior class in the programs ranged from 15 to 95 students.

The mean age of the sample was 30.3, with a range of 18 to 54. A large majority (89%) were women. More than 40% of the students were not married, 38% were married, and the remainder were separated, divorced, or widowed. Half of the students had dependent children living in their homes, and a smaller percentage (13%) had other dependent family members for whom they were the caregivers.

More than 40% of the students felt their financial resources were less than or much less than adequate. Almost 80% received at least one source of financial aid. More than 80% of the students were employed at least part time, and almost half were employed at least 20 hours per week. The mean number of credits taken in a semester was 10.6, with a range of 6 to 21.

Approximately half of the students had obtained a general equivalency diploma (GED) or high school diploma, and almost 10% had at least a baccalaureate degree in a field other than nursing. The remainder reported educational training beyond high school but at less than the baccalaureate level. Most of these students were licensed practical nurses. A large majority (79%) of the students indicated they expected to eventually earn a baccalaureate degree or higher in nursing. The majority of the students indicated the highest level of education completed by their parents was a high school diploma or less.

More than half of the students reported that thenhigh school GPA was a 3.1 or higher. Almost half of the students reported that their college GPA was 3.1 or higher, and an additional 40% reported a college GPA of 2.6 to 3.0, on a scale of 0 to 4. Most of the students indicated they had received a grade of B or C in their last nursing course. Only 17 students in the total sample of 458 (< 3%) had earned a grade of Ain their last nursing course.

Table

TABLE 1Varimax Rotated Principal Components from the Perceived Faculty Support Scale (Af= 458)

TABLE 1

Varimax Rotated Principal Components from the Perceived Faculty Support Scale (Af= 458)

Persistence Categories

The sample consisted of all students in the participating programs who were either currently enrolled in their final semester nursing course or had withdrawn from a program sometime during the 9 months leading up to data collection. Subjects were categorized into three groups according to their persistence:

* Group 1: Students who had persisted throughout a nursing program without withdrawing (n = 300).

* Group 2: Students who had withdrawn voluntarily at some time during their program (n = 83).

* Group 3: Students who had been required to withdraw because of academic failure at some time during their program (n = 75).

All subjects in Group 1 were currently enrolled students. Subjects in Groups 2 and 3 were formerly enrolled students, who had withdrawn from a program and not returned, or were currently enrolled students who had withdrawn but later returned.

Procedure

Permission to conduct the study was obtained from the participating program directors. None of the participating institutions had a formal internal review board.

Participation involved allowing the researcher access to students currently enrolled in the final semester nursing course. The researcher personally described the study to students and distributed questionnaires, which were returned to the researcher in sealed envelopes immediately after completion. In addition, programs mailed questionnaires to formerly enrolled students who withdrew voluntarily or involuntarily during the 9-month period prior to data collection. To ensure anonymity, the researcher did not have access to the names of either currently or formerly enrolled students.

Completion and return of the questionnaire implied students' consent to participate in the study. Anonymity was maintained by the omission of name and affiliating school on the questionnaire, and formerly enrolled students were requested not to include a return address on the envelopes used to return the questionnaires to the researcher. The return rate was 96% for currently enrolled students and 42% for formerly enrolled students.

Instrument

The Perceived Faculty Support Scale was used to measure students' perceptions of the support received from faculty in their nursing program. This instrument was developed by the researcher for this study, and based on self-efficacy theory and a review of the literature on teacher effectiveness and students' perceptions of caring behaviors by faculty (Bandura, 1997; Bergman & Gaitskill, 1990; Brown, 1981; Coleman & Thompson, 1987; Hanson & Smith, 1996; Hughes, 1992; Kirschling et al., 1995; Krichbaum, 1994; Mogan & Knox, 1987; Nehring, 1990; Reeve, 1994; Schaefer & Schaefer, 1993; Sieh & Bell, 1994; Zimmerman & Westfall, 1988).

The Perceived Faculty Support Scale is a 5-point Likert scale, consisting of 24 items. Half of the items were designed to measure psychological support, and half were designed to measure functional support. The position of psychological support and functional support items was randomized to minimize response set bias. Responses to items indicate the extent to which students agree or disagree with statements related to whether "most faculty members" exhibit supportive behaviors. Each item was scored on a 5-point scale, ranging from 1 (i.e., strongly disagree) to 5 (i.e., strongly agree). A high score on the Perceived Faculty Support Scale indicated greater perceived faculty support.

Table

TABLE 2Means and Persistence Group Différences In Perceived Faculty Support (N= 458)

TABLE 2

Means and Persistence Group Différences In Perceived Faculty Support (N= 458)

Content validity for the Perceived Faculty Support Scale was established through review of the instrument by three nurse educators who each had more than 20 years of experience in nursing education. Factor analysis of the instrument revealed two factors through Varimax rotation (Table 1). Factor 1 accounted for 31.1% of the variance and included 14 items with factor loadings ranging from .52 to .79. Most of the items that loaded on Factor 1 were conceptually consistent with psychological support. Factor 2 accounted for 25.6% of the variance and included 10 items with factor loadings ranging from .49 to .77. Most of the items that loaded on Factor 2 were conceptually consistent with functional support. For three of the items, "set challenging but attainable goals for students," "encourage students to ask questions," and "demonstrate confidence in students," the factor loadings were very close for both Factor 1 and Factor 2. This indicated some overlap of the two types of support. Two items, "are helpful in new situations without taking over" and "give helpful feedback on student assignments," loaded on Factor 1 (i.e., psychological support), although they were conceptualized as functional support. The results of the factor analysis showed that the Perceived Faculty Support Scale included a greater emphasis on psychological support than functional support. Based on the factor analysis, the Perceived Faculty Support Scale can be divided into two subscales, one for psychological support and one for functional support.

Internal consistency reliability for the Perceived Faculty Support Scale was .92, as measured by Cronbach's alpha coefficient in a pilot study of 22 nontraditional ADN students. In the full-scale study of 458 subjects, reliability was found to be excellent, with internal consistency of .96, as measured by Cronbach's alpha. Item to total correlations were all positive and acceptable and ranged from .52 to .79.

RESULTS

Perceived faculty support, as measured by the Perceived Faculty Support Scale, had total possible scores of 24 to 120, with a midpoint of 72. The psychological support subscale had possible scores ranging from 14 to 70, with a midpoint of 42. The functional support subscale had possible scores ranging from 10 to 50, with a midpoint of 30. Mean scores were 83.80 for total perceived faculty support, 48.89 for psychological support, and 34.99 for functional support, indicating moderate to moderately high total perceived faculty support, psychological support, and functional support for the total sample (Table 2).

One-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) was computed to determine whether persistence groups differed in their total perceived faculty support, psychological support, and functional support, at a level of significance of ? < .05. A post-hoc Scheffé, the most conservative post hoc analysis, was used to show differences between specific groups. Results are displayed in Table 2.

There was a significant différence in total perceived faculty support between Groups 1 and 2 and between Groups 1 and 3. Subjects in Group 1 had significantly higher total perceived faculty support than subjects in either of the other two groups. The greatest difference was between Groups 1 and 3. There was no significant difference in total perceived faculty support between Groups 2 and 3.

In types of support perceived, Group 1 had significantly higher psychological support than either Group 2 or Group 3. The différences were greatest between Groups 1 and 3. There was no significant difference in perceived psychological support between Groups 2 and 3. Group 1 also perceived significantly higher functional support than either Group 2 or Group 3. As with psychological support, the differences were greatest between Group 1 and Group 3. Group 2 had higher perceived functional support than Group 3 but not at the predetermined level of significance of ? < .05.

DISCUSSION

There were significant persistence group differences in perceived faculty support. Students who persisted in a nursing program from their first clinical nursing course to the final semester had significantly greater perceived faculty support, in terms of both psychological and functional support, than students who withdrew either voluntarily or because of academic failure. Students who persisted continuously throughout a nursing program perceived there was more functional support available and may have used that support to a greater extent than students who withdrew voluntarily or failed academically. Students who persisted also perceived more psychological support from faculty than students who withdrew. The feeling that faculty cared and wanted them to succeed may have created an atmosphere more conducive to academic success and encouraged students to persist.

These findings are consistent with empirical findings in the literature that support the effect of faculty support on persistence in undergraduate non-nursing students (Campbell & Campbell, 1997; Pascarella & Terenzini, 1979). Faculty support promotes academic integration, and according to Tinto (1993), students who are integrated into the academic environment of the institution are more likely to persist and be successful academically.

Campbell and Campbell (1997) noted that there is a tendency for more capable students to take advantage of available resources. This supports the Shelton Model of Student Retention, which proposed that internal processes within students (e.g., ability, self-efficacy) affect and are affected by external supports. Students with higher ability and self-efficacy perceive more support is available to them and use this support to help them achieve their goals. Both student traits and faculty behaviors determine the availability of support perceived and how the student makes use of the support.

Although students who have high academic performance and high self-efficacy are likely to seek the support they need to be successful, students who are struggling academically may not pursue all means of support available to them. Instead of waiting for students to seek help, faculty must approach students who are having difficulty and offer help and encouragement. This demonstrates an attitude of caring and shows students that faculty want them to succeed.

To promote retention of nursing students, faculty need to provide students with both functional and psychological support. Functional support will provide direct help and facilitate learning, and psychological support will provide the caring atmosphere of a mentoring relationship.

Many of the faculty support and advising programs identified in the literature involve functional support, such as monitoring academic progress, helping with problem identification, providing academic help with course content and study skills, referring students for appropriate learning support and counseling services, facilitating goal setting, and helping students prepare for licensure examinations (Campbell & Davis, 1990; Courage & Godbey, 1992; Hughes, 1988; Parks & Kirkpatrick, 1996; Reed & Hudepohl, 1983; Saucier, 1995; Sherrod & Harrison, 1994; Thurber et al., 1989). This study empirically supported the effectiveness of providing functional support in promoting student retention.

Psychological support also is an important contributor to student retention. It allows the teaching role of faculty to be expanded into the mentoring role. Psychological support has been identified in previous studies as important to students, in addition to the functional support they receive (Bergman & Gaitskill, 1990; Brown, 1981; Coleman & Thompson, 1987; Hanson & Smith, 1996; Hughes, 1992; Mogan & Knox, 1987; Myton et al., 1992; Nehring, 1990; Schaefer & Schaefer, 1993; Sieh & Bell, 1994; Thurber et al., 1989). However, it is much less frequently cited as being part of support programs. In this study, students who perceived that they received psychological support from faculty were more likely to persist in a nursing program. This support included faculty being approachable, demonstrating respect for and confidence in students, correcting students without belittling them, listening, acknowledging when students have done well, being patient with students, and having a genuine interest in students. Psychological support provides an atmosphere conducive to learning and promotes students' selfefficacy.

LIMITATIONS

This study used a cross-sectional design. Current students were those enrolled in their final semester of an ADN program. Former students had withdrawn since the beginning of the semester prior to data collection. These former students were at various points in their programs when they withdrew, including first semester students. Because of the varying lengths of time that students had been enrolled in a nursing program, they had varying amounts of exposure to academic experiences within the program, which could have affected their perceptions of support they received from faculty.

It was expected that most of the students who had withdrawn from a nursing program, either voluntarily or involuntarily, would be former, not currently enrolled, students, and this was the case for students who were required to withdraw because of academic failure. However, the majority of students who withdrew voluntarily had returned to a nursing program and eventually persisted to the final semester. They cannot be considered the same as students who had withdrawn and not persisted. Tb have a large enough sample for the data to be meaningful, it was not possible to limit students who had withdrawn to those who had not returned. One would expect there to be an even greater difference in perceived faculty support between students who had withdrawn, returned, and persisted throughout a nursing program and those who had withdrawn and not returned.

A further limitation was in the return rate of the questionnaires. Although the return rate was 96% for currently enrolled students, it was only 42% for formerly enrolled students. It is likely the 58% of former students who did not return their questionnaires had different perceptions about faculty support than students who participated in the study.

RECOMMENDATIONS

It is recommended that future studies employ a longitudinal design, which would provide a more accurate and thorough examination of the relationship between students' perceptions of the support they received from faculty and their persistence in a nursing program. If students withdrew voluntarily or failed academically at some point in the program, perceived faculty support could be measured at the time of withdrawal. Differences in perceived faculty support based on timing of withdrawal also could be ascertained to determine whether students with greater perceived faculty support persisted longer, although they eventually may have withdrawn. The relationship between perceived faculty support and re admission to a nursing program following withdrawal also could be examined. Study samples should include baccalaureate, as well as ADN, students to examine possible differences in faculty support related to student retention.

It is further recommended that student perceptions of support they received from faculty be compared with faculty perceptions of the support they provided to determine if there are differences. This research should address both psychological and functional support. In addition, comparing student perceptions of support received with support desired is recommended to explore the adequacy of faculty support. Finally, collecting qualitative data on what faculty behaviors students found to be supportive and unsupportive would further validate the Perceived Faculty Support Scale.

CONCLUSION

Based on the results of this study, there is now empirical evidence that both psychological and functional support contribute to student retention by promoting student persistence. Psychological support provides the caring atmosphere of a mentoring relationship, and functional support provides direct help and facilitates learning. Nursing education focuses on the holistic approach to client care. It is imperative that nursing faculty extend this holistic approach to the care and nurturing of the next generation of nurses who currently are enrolled in nursing programs.

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TABLE 1

Varimax Rotated Principal Components from the Perceived Faculty Support Scale (Af= 458)

TABLE 2

Means and Persistence Group Différences In Perceived Faculty Support (N= 458)

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