Perceptions of tutors and student nurses on factors that influence academic performance at a nursing college
Jafta, Motlatsi George
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Academic performance appears to be a problem, not only at nursing colleges, but at all academic institutions. An overloaded curriculum, a heavy workload, crowded classes, lack of equipment and scarce resources, amongst others, seem to be the problem. The study was conducted to determine the factors that influence students’ academic performance at a nursing college. A qualitative, explorative, descriptive and contextual design was used. Two samples, namely tutors and student nurses in the first year of their four-year diploma programme, were obtained. Both groups were English-speaking and available at the time of the study. Two questions were posed to the target groups. Firstly: “What are the factors that influence academic performance at the college?” Secondly: “What can be done to improve the academic performance of the students at the college?” Informed consent was obtained after the purpose of the study had been explained to the participants. Consent to conduct the study was also obtained from the Head of the Department of the Free State Department of Health. The eight steps identified by Tesch (1990), as cited in Botma, Greeff, Mulaudzi and Wright (2010: 224), was used during the process of data analysis. The researcher then did a literature review to support the outcome. During focus-group interviews, tutors indicated that the type of students selected for training was not committed enough to become competent professional nurses. Some of the tutors were concerned that students only applied to the nursing college to receive bursaries. The bursaries were then misappropriatedfor personal use, instead of being used for their studies. According to tutors, students only applied for training because they had not been admitted at other institutions which offeredthe courses of their choice. Tutors also complained that, due to administrative responsibilities, they lacked the time to accompany students in the clinical areas. The students identified several factors. They mentioned, for example, that the transition from high school to college and the resultant workloadhad a negative impact on their studies. More freedom at the college and the fact that they no longer studied under the strict supervision of their parents, were also mentioned as factors. Furthermore, it seemed that the study methods that were successful at high school did not have the same effect at college. Students also complained about the appalling living conditions at the nurses’ home. Poor hygienic conditions and unbearable noise levels, the lack of security, and a feeling of not being safe were mentioned. The lack of confidentiality when they consulted the student counsellor also added to students’ dissatisfaction. A concern was that confidential information would later be disclosed to other students and tutors. Finally, the researcher’s recommendations were to address the most important factors, such as the management of bursaries and accommodation of students and to ensure that a strategic plan would be developed to improve academic performance.
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