Research highlights need for preparation resource to ready online nursing students


Undertaken by Angela Sheedy, Senior Research Officer at Charles Darwin University’s Menzies School of Medicine, the study set out to investigate and identify the preparatory academic skills and resources required for students about to start undergraduate online nursing studies to help them succeed.

Focus groups with student nurses and an online survey for academics were used to identify challenges for students and core areas to inform preparation for practice resources.

A total of 26 academics, with between one to 10 years plus teaching experience, shared their views on current barriers and how to better prepare students. This included:

Challenges to student success

  • Unrealistic expectations and understanding of the nursing role.
  • Poor academic and health literacy skills, poor time management and prioritisation skills, lack of understanding of university expectations.
  • Challenges with clinical practice, knowledge and time lapse between learning skills and applying skills.
  • Inability to balance work, family, life and studies.
  • Unsupportive university system or staff.

Priority study preparation resources

  • Critical thinking and clinical reasoning in nursing
  • Referencing and research skills
  • Foundations of nursing, medical and health terminology
  • Time and self-management
  • Introduction to online learning platform

Extra resource focus areas

  • The professional role of the nurse, reflection and reflective practice,
  • Communication skills
  • Evidence-guided nursing practice
  • Staying healthy while studying

Meanwhile, student focus groups, which included 43 participants across all year levels, identified the main challenges as clinical requirements, academic skills, and support.

According to the focus groups, advice/preparation for new students starting Bachelor of Nursing studies should include peer support, like meeting up with past students, understanding clinical requirements, and better resources.

The study, published in the December 2023 – February 2024 edition of the Australian Journal of Advanced Nursing (AJAN), recommended three key areas for the development of study preparation resources.

  1. Academic skills and navigation of university systems.
  2. Introduction to being a nurse (professional role expectations), clinical preparation, medical terminologies, critical thinking and reflective practice.
  3. Self-care, time management and prioritisation of tasks, with peer support.

“Students are generally motivated and excited when they are first offered a university place and this presents an opportunity to tap into this motivation starting students early with resources directly relevant to their course and personal requirements,” Ms Sheedy writes.

“It is anticipated that this will aid the students course progression and satisfaction and improve retention rates.”

Read the full study here

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