Retention Matters: A Qualitative Understanding of Nursing Students’ Motivations

Schuller, Buchman & Cronin / International Journal of Nursing and Health Care Research / December 2019

student working in lab

Background: From 2016-2026, the healthcare industry is expected to experience the greatest employment growth. The purpose of this study was to determine what factors motivated undergraduate nursing students to continue on their current career path.

Methods: A sample of 142 nursing students in their sophomore or senior year completed an electronic survey on motivation. Content analysis was used to code qualitative responses to the question “Explain a situation during coursework or internship/clinicals that motivated you to stay on your current career path.”

Results: Themes emerged in two main categories: clinicals and class. The five clinical-based themes were clinical experience, patient experience, self-validation, altruism, and clinical competence. The one class-based theme was engaged professors. The clinical experience was the most frequently mentioned theme.

Conclusion: Understanding student motivation for continuing in a major is critical for retention within programs and job satisfaction within the profession. Timing of motivation, or lack thereof, is also critical to ensure retention in nursing programs. Low motivation among first and second year students may result in higher attrition rates.