THE FACTORS INFLUENCING LEARNING OF NURSING STUDENTS AT A NURSING COLLEGE IN THE WESTERN CAPE. (EDUCATION PROJECT TOPICS AND MATERIALS)
A major challenge faces higher educational institutions around the world on how to achieve quality outcomes for students in an increasingly globalised and competitive environment (Harvey & Kamvounias, 2008:31). Education is a reciprocal process, during which the learners acquire knowledge, ability, and self awareness in gaining diversity to thought (University of Wisconsin, 2001:2). Nursing education is designed to educate and train nursing students to become competent and qualified professional nurses (Mellish, Brink & Paton, 2009:6). In order to provide skilled nursing care, professional nurses must be educated and trained to master certain skills and be knowledgeable about the science of nursing (Mellish et al., 2009:6-7). According to Leufer (2007:322), nursing students need the appropriate knowledge and skills to enable them to deliver safe and competent care to their patients.
According to Mellish et al. (2009:63), professional nurses enter the nursing programme with different expectations of what is to be learnt, different intellectual skills, types and levels of motivation, and different interests. Furthermore, professional nurses also come from different cultures and backgrounds. Consequently, professional nurse educators, who are responsible for educating and training these students, have a challenging task.
Prior to 1994, nursing education in the Western Cape had been provided by four separate colleges in the public sector. These four colleges amalgamated during the post “apartheid” era to form one college. This nursing college has been especially challenged by poor academic progress of its students over the past decade. The students’ academic performances have shown a decline over the last few years, to such an extent that it has become a major concern to all the parties involved (Table 1). The problem has been further compounded by the expectation of Government to increase the number of students being trained, in order to counteract the critical shortage of professional nurses in the country. In South Africa the enrolment of nursing
students for their first year has increased, whereas the number of students completing their fourth year has decreased, due to poor academic progress over the four years. Consequently, there is an imbalance between the input and output of students (Table 1). Since more students are failing, there is a backlog of students completing their programmes successfully., Stickney (2008:422), substantiates this problem by describing that the number of new enrollees into nursing programmes in the United States (US), is too low to provide an adequate nursing workforce to meet increasing health needs. Furthermore, the nursing shortage problem is exacerbated by the attrition of students over the course of their programmes.
Statistics obtained over a period of six years show a decline in the academic progression of students over this period. In 2002, 159 students commenced training at the college being studied, of which 104 (65%) students completed in 2005. In contrast, in 2003, 173 students registered for training, of which only 75 (14%) completed in 2007. No students were enrolled in 2004 since the college was in the process of preparing for the introduction of the bursary system. The 206 students who commenced training in 2005, had a high failure rate of 67 (33%) in their first semester, general nursing science examination in 2006. The college senate then approved the setting of a third opportunity examination for those students who had failed or had not written the second opportunity examination. 67 students wrote the third opportunity examination, of which only 7 (seven) passed. 60 students failed the examination, with 73% of these students obtaining an average of less than 40%. In 2007, only 76 (36%) of the 206 students remained in training, by entering their third year. Further in 2006, 192 students commenced their studies, of which 142 (73.9%) progressed into their second year of study, leaving 26.1% of unsuccessful students or drop outs at such early stages of their training (PGWC Nursing College Statistics, 2008).