Factors influencing intending student
nurses' choice of branch programme and the implications for
the provision of career advice
This paper outlines a research study in progress in
England. It is hoped that the topic and outcomes will be of
interest to nurse educator colleagues in other
Applications for diploma programmes in England are processed by the Nursing and Midwifery Admissions Service (NMAS). Students receive a non-means-tested bursary from the Department of Health and have full student status. Diploma programmes are three years in length, though may be reduced to two years for holders of health-related degrees.
The majority of the 40 institutions in England holding formal approval to offer pre-registration nursing programmes require applicants to indicate their choice of branch programme when they apply for a place on a course. At the present time, only three institutions allow students to defer their final choice of branch programme until part of the CFP has been completed.
A search of the literature has revealed only one
published study (Pye and Whyte, 1996) examining the factors
influencing student nurses' choice ofbranch programme. This
vitally important career decision has implications for the
individual student, for the provision of nursing education,
and, ultimately, for the effective provision of nursing
services. Accordingly, it has been decided to study this
area in depth from a nursing viewpoint, principally so that
implications for the provision of careers advice to
intending student nurses may be identified.
The predetermined aims of the study are:
The study is using a cross-sectional survey design to obtain information about the prevalence, distribution, and interrelationships of variables within a population. The groups for study already exist and will not be created by the investigator for the purposes of the research.
The twelve hypotheses that will be tested within the study relate to factors influencing applicants' choice of nursing branch programmes. They are derived either from existing theory, from related research, from preliminary data collected by the investigator, or from the investigator's own experience. These attempts to explain relevant phenomena provided a rationale for expecting variables to behave in certain ways, thus the majority of the hypotheses are presented as research hypotheses and are directional in form.
The results of hypotheses testing will inform the
construction of a model for nursing careers advice. This
model will be tested to measure its validity and
The population is all persons resident in the U.K. who submit valid applications to the Nurses and Midwives Admissions Service (NMAS), during its 1997 Fixed Application Period, for pre-registration nursing diploma programmes beginning in England from Autumn 1998. A probability sample will be selected from a sampling frame provided by the NMAS.
Data will be collected retrospectively, as it is anticipated that the events of interest will have already occurred. Data will be obtained from the identified research subjects by means of self-report, specifically by the use of a self-administered questionnaire. The questionnaire will be a data collection instrument designed for the purpose by the investigator. The development and testing of this instrument forms a major part of the research study.
Additional contextual information is being obtained from face-to-face interviews undertaken in the field with key informants, such as applicants, existing students, nurse educators, and careers advisers.
The questionnaire for the study is being developed following guidelines suggested by Rust and Golombok (1989). Its purpose is to identify the factors influencing the respondent's choice of branch programme. It consists of a bibliographic section to elicit background information about the respondent, and a scale to assess the factors of interest.
A pilot version of the questionnaire is currently being
tested. In generating the test specification of the pilot
version, the practical application of the questionnaire was
enhanced by consulting widely with a range of experts. This
was in addition to exploring the existing literature around
occupational choice in nursing. Before preparing the final
version of the questionnaire for pilot testing, the items
were subjected to further review by experienced careers
advisers and professional nursing advisers.
The author wishes to acknowledge the kind support of the Florence Nightingale Foundation in undertaking this research.
Pye SA and Whyte LA 1996 Factors influencing the branch choice of students on a nursing undergraduate programme Nurse Education Today 16, 432-436
Rust J and Golombok S 1989 Modern Psychometrics Routledge England.
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