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Mature student's experiences of third level education

Mature student's experiences of third level education

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An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Susan Hogan. Originally submitted for BSc. General Nursing at University of Limerick, with lecturer Anne Fahy in the category of Nursing & Midwifery
An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Susan Hogan. Originally submitted for BSc. General Nursing at University of Limerick, with lecturer Anne Fahy in the category of Nursing & Midwifery

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 31, 2012
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Mature students return to full time education for a myriad of reason. They encounter a uniqueeducational experience during their journey through third level education and therefore this is atopic warranting discussion.
Background to the proposed study
Change in nurse education combined with changes in access to third level institutes has resultedin a changed student profile in nursing. The changes in nurse recruitment in Ireland over the pasttwo decades have allowed greater access to non-traditional or mature students. Mature studentsenter third level education with different needs and motivations than their younger counterparts.The profile characteristics of mature students are that they are committed, self-directed, hard-working and caring (
O’ Brien et al 2009
; Kevern and Webb 2004 and Montgomery et al 2009).Despite these positive attributes mature students encounter challenges different to their youngercounterparts including balancing college and home life, financial challenges and stress (Evansand Kelly 2004; Drury et al 2008 and McCarey et al 2007). Universities and clinical placementsites have a huge impact the experiences of mature students and preceptors in particular arecentral to this experience (Happell 2009; Pearcey and Elliott 2004 and Midgley 2005).
The significance of the research topic
Globally, mature students account for 50% of all students enrolled in universities (Malhotra et al2007) which highlights the need for nursing courses to be able to facilitate the needs of themature learner (Fleming and McKee 2005). At present however mature students are expected tofit into the structures that already exist within the university which have mainly been set up for
younger students making their progression through the nursing programme more challenging (O’
Brien et al 2009). The experiences of mature nursing students have been documented elsewhere(Drury et al 2008; Lauder and Cuthbertson 1998 and Steele et al 2005), however there appears tobe a considerable gap in available data describing the Irish position. The literature was obtainedthrough databases such as Cinahl, Biomed Central, Medline, Nursing and Allied Health,PsycArticles, Science Direct, PsycINFO, and Wiley Online Library using the keywords, student,
nurse, mature, non-traditional, stress, gender, clinical placement, ward culture and nurseeducation.
Rational for the proposed study and implications for Nursing
Mature nursing students represent a significant proportion of enrolled nursing students. It hasbeen suggested they are inclined to work locally and stay in the profession longer once qualified
(O’ Brien et al, 2009) and thus are a major contributor to the nursing profession.
Commencingthird level education and clinical practice in a healthcare setting can cause considerable anxietyfor many students but the emotional maturity of mature students often results in their ability toemploy coping strategies that helps prevent these adverse effects. Throughout the literature theneed for quality student support is viewed as essential for student retention and as a startingpoint, the author proposes to investigate how mature nursing students experience third leveleducation and therefore how they can be supported.
Nurse education in Ireland has dramatically changed from the apprenticeship model and diplomaprogramme in 1996 and finally to a baccalaureate nursing programme in 2002. The changingdemographics in nurse recruitment in Ireland have allowed greater access to non-traditional ormature students. Globally, mature students account for 50% of all students enrolled inuniversities (Malhotra et al 2007) and in Ireland An Bord Altrainis (2007) state that one third of enrolled nursing students enter through non-traditional routes, this includes mature students.There is evidence to suggest that mature nursing students approach the nursing programme withcommitment, motivation and often a wealth of experience (Montgomery et al 2009). Advantagesof recruiting mature students are the fact that life experience has provided them with useful time-management and multi tasking skills, which they can apply to the clinical learning environment(Kevern and Webb 2004).
O’Shea (2003) suggests in her literature review that mature students
may be more self directed than school leavers as result of previous learning or carer experience.Furthermore, it has been suggested that mature students are more likely to persist and completetheir programme than their younger counterparts (Shepherd 2008; Pryjmachuk et al 2009;Hinsliff-Smith et al 2011).However, mature students frequently face many challenges including childcare (Glackin &Glackin 1998; Lauder & Cuthbertson 1998; Kevern & Webb 2004) and financial strain oftenassociated with their reduction in earning ability associated with full-time education (Kevern andWebb 2004; Montgomery et al
2009; O’Brien et al 2009). Studies investigating psychological
impact suggest mature students experience stress resulting from internal and external factorsassociated with attending college and clinical placement (Evans and Kelly 2004; Drury et al2008). It is therefore apparent that mature students encounter different challenges than youngerstudents and this may involve significant adjustments including considerable changes to theirrole, income and lifestyle.

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