Demographic and academic-related differences between standard-entry and graduate-entry nursing students: a prospective correlational survey
Background Students who enroll in graduate-entry nursing programs are described as more highly motivated, scoring higher in most learning strategies, and achieving greater academic success than standard-entry nursing students. Design A prospective correlational design was used to compare the demographic and academic-related characteristics of standard-entry and graduate-entry nursing students in their first year of study. Methods Between 2007 and 2011, students enrolled in the Bachelor of Nursing, Standard Entry and the Bachelor Nursing, Graduate Entry at a large Australian university were surveyed in the first year of their program. Data included English-language usage and time spent in paid work, as well as four dimensions of Pintrich's Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire. Survey data was linked to students' academic grades at the end of the semester. Results A total of 730 students completed the survey and consented to collection of their academic grades. Graduate-entry students were more likely to be older (28.6 vs. 24.3 years, P < 0.001), and there was a higher percentage of males (25.2% vs. 15.9%, P = 0.003). Although no difference was identified between groups for use of Extrinsic Goal Orientation as a learning strategy, the graduate-entry students were more likely to identify Peer Learning, Help Seeking and Critical Thinking as strategies for learning than the standard-entry students (P < 0.001). Further, while this group of students achieved a higher mean GPA (4.8 vs. 4.0, P < 0.001) compared to the standard-entry students, regression analyses revealed that in both groups, lower levels of English-language proficiency and increased time spent in paid work were predictors of poorer academic performance. Conclusions Similar to US-based studies, demographic and academic-related differences were identified between standard-entry and graduate-entry nursing students. However, the study also highlights lower levels of English-language proficiency and increased time spent in paid work negatively impacted academic performance in both groups of nursing students.