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Open Access Publications from the University of California

An Interpretive Phenomenological Study on the Influences on Associate Degree Prepared Nurses to Return to School to Earn a Higher Degree in Nursing

  • Author(s): Orsolini-Hain, Liana M
  • Advisor(s): Benner, Patricia
  • et al.

The call for a better educated nursing workforce has been growing stronger, coinciding with a concern for patient safety. Currently, about 80% of associate degree (A.D.) prepared nurses do not return to school for a higher degree in nursing. Few have studied this phenomenon. This interpretive phenomenological study sought to determine influences on A.D. nurses who had been in practice at least 10 years to return to school. 22 participants were interviewed over 1-1.5 hours from 3 hospitals in an urban setting in California. High levels of job satisfaction at the bedside received from being able to make a difference in the patient's lives, provisions for life long learning satiety without returning to school, lack of distinctions between nurses with higher degrees at the bedside and lack of perception of how a higher degree will change current nursing practice served as disincentives for nurses to return to school. Implications call for collaboration between service health care organizations and academia to provide more relevant education in the hospital setting for credit towards a higher academic degree. Collaborative education consortiums need to be formed to capture students completing their A.D. program who can seamlessly continue for a baccalaureate in nursing degree and masters in nursing.

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