Document Type



Doctor of Education


Adult & Higher Education

Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

Dr. Wolfgang Althof


Woodhouse, Shawn

Farnsworth, Kent

Mueggenburg, Kay


Nontraditional students in nursing have been the topic of multiple research studies to gain insight into their perceptions regarding retention. This mixed methods study, using Jeffreys’ Student Perception Appraisal-Revised (SPA-R, 2007a) takes the quantitative findings a step further by using a qualitative approach to generate findings that extend the value of that instrument by exploring the details pertaining to each of the environmental items using focus groups and individual interviews with community college nursing students, just prior to graduation. One hundred seven associate degree nursing students in their last semester at three Midwestern community colleges were surveyed with the SPA-R tool to determine that the tool is applicable to this population. The results confirmed the original findings, yet differences based on location of each of these institutions, one rural, one suburban, and one urban location are presented. The second qualitative phase was conducted with two focus groups and two individual interviews with students over the age of 25, just before graduation. The students articulated their perceptions regarding the relationship of the environmental factors that promoted their success and shared their recommendations for solutions to the challenge of retention. Using grounded theory strategies of data analysis, these findings emerged into two categories, Internal and External Factors, that evolved into the Bridge of Support model of factors required for successful navigation of the nontraditional student nurse to the registered nurse. Implications for practice and suggestions for further research are included.

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