Student Motivation, Stressors, And Intent To Leave Nursing Doctoral Study: A National Study Using Path Analysis

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Nurse Education Today


Churchill Livingstone



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Background The demand for doctorally prepared nurses worldwide is higher than ever. Universities have responded with increased numbers of DNP and Ph.D. in Nursing programs. There are more doctoral nursing students than ever before yet they remain one of the least studied student populations. This is concerning given the high attrition rates reported in doctoral programs. The few studies that do exist are typically qualitative and exploratory in nature. Objectives The aim of this national study of Ph.D. and DNP students was to examine how the effects of environmental stressors predict the students' intent to leave their current program of doctoral study. Design A descriptive survey design was utilized for the study. Settings Participation requests were sent by email to deans/directors of all Ph.D. and DNP programs across the United States, with the request to forward to all currently enrolled students. Participants Eight hundred and thirty-five (n = 835) Ph.D. and DNP participants responded to this survey. Methods The survey was analyzed utilizing path analysis. Results Findings of the path analysis indicate that two types of stress significantly predicted students' intention to leave. First, stressors related to program issues, primarily relationships between student and faculty/advisor, significantly predict intent to leave. As program stressors rise, so does intent to leave. The other significant factor was related to support issues, specifically support from family/friends. This inverse relationship indicated as family support declines, intent to leave rises. Conclusions It is impossible to remove all stressors from students' lives during their doctoral studies. A better understanding of the environmental stressors that affect them offers the potential for nursing programs looking to incorporate adequate resources and support which will help minimize attrition and promote persistence of their doctoral students. Specific recommendations are provided that may assist programs looking to decrease doctoral nursing student attrition. © 2017 Elsevier Ltd


Attrition; Graduate; Motivation; Nursing education; Path analysis; United States



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