Next Generation Nursing Students Engaged in Their Career Journey Despite the Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t necessarily dampened nursing students’ interest in the profession, according to the results of a small survey.

Among 161 respondents, 14.3% indicated that the pandemic had led to a decrease in interest in a career in nursing while 54.4% affirmed their interest in becoming a nurse, reported Meredith Kells, PhD, RN, CPNP, from the University of Chicago Medicine and Biological Sciences, and Karen Jennings Mathis, PhD, CNP-APRN, from the College of Nursing at the University of Rhode Island in Providence.

The students’ average score of 6.4 – with 0 a decrease and 10 an increase in career – “indicates that, on average, the COVID-19 pandemic has increased interest in a career in nursing,” they said. they write in the Clinical Nursing Journal.

The “general message is that nursing students are really still interested in pursuing this career path,” said Jennings Mathis. MedPage today.

Despite these generally positive trends, more than half of respondents said they felt “uncertain about the future”, while two-thirds said they felt “overwhelmed”.

Respondents also cited mental health issues, with 18.7% reporting moderate to severe anxiety and 19.8% moderate to severe depression.

As for stress, the respondents’ average stress score is 56.6 (0 not stressed, 100 extremely stressed).

And the average score for the question “How worried are you about the COVID-19 pandemic?” was 61.0 (0 not at all worried, 100 extremely worried).

In terms of academic concerns, 57.1% of respondents said their grades met expectations, 17.4% said their grades were below expectations, and 25.5% said their grades were above expectations.

But there were no significant differences between grades on questions related to life satisfaction or anxiety and depression score, the researchers reported. They found that 67.7% agreed or strongly agreed that they were satisfied with their current life and 96.9% agreed or strongly agreed that they would be satisfied with life there. ‘to come up.

“For nursing students, COVID-19 has highlighted the duality of being a nurse…and the duality of being a nursing student – in that nursing students feel extremely stressed and overwhelmed with their academic performance and content with their present and future lives,” wrote Kells and Jennings Mathis.

The findings suggest the need to prioritize mental health screening and improve mental health services, for nurses and nursing students, for career success and the ability to “emotionally manage” all ” external stressors” that arise, Jennings Mathis said.

The online survey was conducted in July 2020 and sent to 896 4-year undergraduate nursing students at a Northeastern University. The response rate was 18%. Of the respondents, 94.4% were female, 86.3% identified as non-Hispanic white, 90.1% were heterosexual, and 90.1% were full-time college students. The authors used the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 to screen for depression and the General Anxiety Disorder-7 to screen for anxiety. Respondents were also asked about their grades and life satisfaction.

The findings are good news for a field that has seen an exodus by nurses and other health care providers during the pandemic. Kells and Jennings Mathis noted that nursing student concerns about the profession post-pandemic “can have a significant impact on staffing ratios, nurse burnout, and patient outcomes.” A recent study on the nursing workforce revealed that the number of applicants for 4-year nursing programs increased by only 1.5% in 2019-2020 compared to 4.5% in 2018-2019 and 8.5% in 2017-2018.

Still, Kells said MedPage today that she found the current findings “reassuring” as they support the idea that nursing is “a vocation that people are drawn to” despite the associated risks.

But that doesn’t mean the nursing community can relax, as nurses have been negatively impacted by the pandemic. Kells said she and her co-author observed two themes among nurses: worries about personal safety and worries about being unprepared to enter the workforce.

Jennings Mathis noted that the lack of adequate support and resources that professional nurses have complained about during the pandemic appears to have “spilled over” to nursing students. For example, many nursing student courses went online in March 2020, and hospitals were reluctant to let students continue their clinical rotations, she explained.

Kels said MedPage today that while some students gained direct experience of clinical care by working as health care aides outside of their educational requirements, much of “hands-on patient care” was suspended, leaving students feeling ill-prepared for their future careers .

“This experiential learning from nursing school is key to helping nursing students feel competent to enter the workforce,” she said.

Limitations of the study included the fact that it was conducted in a facility with respondents who were predominantly white, female, and English-speaking. The sample size was relatively small and the response rate left the results open to “nonresponse bias,” the authors noted.

The timing of the study may also have influenced its results, Kells said, and pointed to the need to repeat the survey to understand how the pandemic influenced nursing students over time.

She also suggested that further research could help identify the specific needs of nursing students in the wake of COVID-19 and help nursing schools tailor mental health resources and support.

  • Shannon Firth has reported on health policy as MedPage Today’s Washington correspondent since 2014. She is also a member of the site’s Enterprise & Investigative Reporting team. To follow


The study was supported by the National Institutes of Mental Health.

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