2023 Graduate Student Grant Recipient

Vernon-John (VJ) Gibbins (RN, PhD(c))

University of Alberta

Exploring undergraduate nursing students’ experience of clinical course failure through the lens of achievement motivation

Two Canadian studies estimated a shortage of 60,000 full-time registered nurse positions by 2022. Authors cite insufficient numbers of students persisting to graduation as a contributing factor. The recent and ongoing pandemic has only exaggerated the nursing shortage.  Nursing school attrition studies find that clinical course failure is a significant factor in students’ decisions to leave nursing school.

This study aims to explore the experiences of nursing students in Canada who failed a clinical course. The research questions are: (1) How do undergraduate nursing students describe their experiences of failing a clinical course? (2) What do nursing students who failed a clinical course believe led up to and contributed to their clinical course failure? (3) What do nursing students who failed a clinical course believe could have prevented their clinical failure? and (4) What are the relationships among clinical failure, achievement motivation, and nursing students’ future academic plans and career goals?

Participants will be undergraduate nursing students enrolled in a program that leads to a bachelor’s degree in nursing who failed a clinical course within the past two years. Participants may be retaking the failed course but must not have passed it yet. Participants may be former students who left a nursing program in part because they failed a clinical course. Participants may not already have a license as a nurse (LPN, RPN). I will conduct in-depth, semi-structured interviews via Zoom. Interpretive description method guides this study. I will analyze data concurrently with data collection in an iterative process of comparing new data with emerging themes.

I will explore participants’ perceptions of the causes and contributing factors of their course failure, and how they view failure itself. I will examine how students’ mindsets and goal orientations impact their subsequent actions and academic decisions. Researchers studying students in other contexts report that motivational constructs are associated with predictable actions and outcomes. If predispositions specific to failing in the clinical environment can be identified, more appropriate and targeted academic interventions can be planned to mitigate or diminish the risk of failure. Future interventional research using the findings of this study will include tools to reduce clinical failure and mitigate attrition from nursing schools as one strategy needed to ensure a robust future Canadian nursing workforce.