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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Formation in an accelerated nursing program: Learning existential skills of nursing practice

  • Author(s): McNiesh, Susan G
  • Advisor(s): Benner, Patricia
  • et al.



Susan McNiesh

In response to increasing concerns over the national shortage of nurses, schools of nursing, public and private health funding agencies, and health care service organizations have joined forces to offer solutions to the increasing demand for nurses. One solution is to tap into a new population of potential students, those with undergraduate degrees in disciplines other than nursing. There has been little research on accelerated nursing programs and many schools have not yet tailored their curricula to meet the needs of this richly experienced group.

The goal of this qualitative research study was to articulate the background understanding of how students in an accelerated master's entry program experientially take up the practice of nursing. Specific aims included: What pivotal formative experiences do students identify as helping them develop and differentiate their clinical practice? How does "the press of the situation" affect the student's performance? How do previous life experiences, education, and career choices influence the experience of second degree students? What potential effects does condensing and accelerating the curriculum have on learning in second degree programs?

Data from clinical observations and a combination of small group and individual interviews (N=19) were analyzed using interpretive phenomenological methods. Two lines of inquiry were revealed. The first includes an articulation of the layering of factors that co-constitute to form the background of intensity in an accelerated program. A second line of inquiry articulates the pivotal and formative skills learned through the independent care of a patient. By experiencing the responsibility and action from within the body and from within concrete situations the student is transformed and develops a new understanding that literally changes the individual's embodied ways of perceiving and orienting to the situation, as well as his or her skills and set to act.

This research extends the horizon of what can be seen of the background that grounds the taking up of nursing practice in accelerated learning environments. Further research could uncover additional aspects of this rich learning community including relationships among students, with clinical instructors, and with the nurses that facilitate the students' journey.

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