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Factors influencing the pursuit of graduate education in registered nurses : exploring the motivators and barriers Gorczyca, Catherine

Abstract

Graduate-prepared nurses play an important role in fulfilling leadership, administration, education, and advanced practice positions within academic and clinical practice settings. With only a slim majority of Canadian nurses holding a graduate degree as their highest level of education, concerns exist about how vacancies in advanced roles will be filled. Many research studies have focussed on the motivators and barriers to pursing higher education in adult learners in general and on those learners who have already made the decision to seek higher education. This research question addressed the gap between both types of learners by examining the attitudes and perceptions of registered nurses who have never enrolled in graduate studies and their perceived motivators and barriers. The problem was examined from the perspective of adult nursing education and specifically used Cross’s (1981) chain-of-response’ model. Cross’s model conceptualizes the intrinsic and the extrinsic factors that motivate adult participation in learning activities. A qualitative phenomenological study design was conducted and transcribed. For increased homogeneity, a convenience sample of eight registered nurses was divided into two focus groups based on their years of nursing experience. The major themes that emerged were categorized as: motivators, barriers, perceptions and attitudes. The motivators included having a professional goal, being personally and professionally challenged, and having a role model in the form of peer support and mentorship. The barriers are divided into three categories drawn from Cross’s (1981) work, which includes situational barriers of work-life balance and financial impact with a subtheme of age iii and personal and family commitments, institutional barriers related to the application process, and dispositional concerns around returning to study. The other general themes were perceptions and attitudes in respect to pursuing graduate education, and these included alternative educational opportunities, non-graduate careers, supporting resources, theory–practice gap, value of graduate education, and misconceptions of graduate level roles. The findings highlighted that more work needs to be done to promote the different opportunities and roles available for graduate-prepared nurses and to promote the resources available within both the academic and healthcare employment settings.

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