The journal article is basically a report on the first study to longitudinally examine educational mobility among nurses. The reason for the study is that schools of nursing cite a lack of qualified nursing faculty as a primary barrier to program expansion. The main objective of the study therefore is to identify patterns in how nurses’ entry-level degrees and other individual characteristics correlate with the timing and achievement of subsequent advanced nursing education.
The researchers used longitudinal analysis of data gathered as part of North Carolina’s licensing renewal process. They studied the educational mobility of newly graduated RNs with a variety of entry degrees in this state. They followed cohorts of new graduates who were licensed in 1984, 1994 and a special group in 2004, which is basically a longitudinal study of three decades. The results suggest among others that, more than 80% of all nurses in either cohort who attained a master’s degree in nursing or a doctorate in any field began their nursing career with a bachelor’s degree.
Younger age at entry into nursing, male sex, and belonging to a racial or ethnic minority were associated with being more likely to pursue higher academic degrees. Based on their findings, they concluded that increasing the number of graduates with a bachelor of science in nursing degree, especially those who are men or members of a racial or ethnic minority will have the most immediate effect on increasing the potential nursing faculty pool. A Critique of the Research Process and Paper
The hypothesis or research question was clearly articulated in the article when the authors introduced the issue of the lack of qualified faculty by schools of nursing as a primary barrier to program expansion. The researchers realized that an examination of the data could offer a much better understanding of how patterns in educational mobility have led to the current shortage, as well as some insight into how to address it. Since it was a longitudinal study of three decades, the literature review must not just be current, but also pertinent in order to address the research problem.
In this study, the researchers used only two sources of data: cohort data from the North Carolina Center for Nursing database and data on national graduates from the National League for Nursing Division of Research: Nursing Data Book, 1984; Nursing Data Review, 1994; and Nursing Data Review, 2003. In terms of research design the researchers used longitudinal analysis (which is done over time) to explore patterns of educational mobility among RNs in North Carolina.
In this type of research, longitudinal analysis is valuable and relevant because it profiles actual behavior and does not rely upon intentions or recall as in other types of conventional research such as cross-sectional research. However, as the authors admitted a disadvantage of this approach is that over time the nature of educational opportunity and access change so that what was true for nurses starting their career at a specific point in time may not be true for those starting in another time.
In terms of selecting the sample and adequacy of the sample size, it was done in accordance to the sampling requirements of the longitudinal study. The first cohort initially consisted of all RNs who graduated from an entry-level program in North Carolina in 1983 or 1984 and were licensed in 1984. A second cohort initially consisted of all RNs who graduated from an entry-level program in North Carolina in 1993 or 1994 and were licensed in 1994. They also collected demographic data on a third cohort of 5,400 RNs who graduated from an entry-level program in 2003 or 2004 and were licensed in North Carolina in 2004.
Using the database from the North Carolina Center for Nursing (NCCN) to get the raw data, the researchers were confident that as the first state agency dedicated to nurse workforce planning, the NCCN has 20 years of longitudinal data, including educational information, on the state’s nursing workforce. As far as ethical issues are concerned, there is no point or period in the study article that would suggest of any ethical issue raised by respondents.
However, as longitudinal researches take a long time to finish, certain privacy may be raised by some respondents who do not want their past information to be dug up by researchers. For statistical analysis the researchers basically used descriptive statistics such as frequency, means, and certain non-parametric tests (chi-square) for testing significant differences between means computed from the data. Because of the relative characteristic of the statistical tests, the power of the non-parametric test is comparatively lower to that of parametric test.
So it is difficult to determine why the authors decided to use non-parametric tests in this case. The findings of the authors do well in identifying the behavior and characteristics of nurses who will most likely fill the gap in terms of the shortage of qualified nursing faculty. Their data also suggests that the nursing shortage will not be remedied without having sufficient nursing faculty in place. While the number of RNs has increased in the past decade, their findings suggest that the demand for nursing faculty is not being met.
This research is a longitudinal study only of a specific groups or groups of respondents. This study cannot be generalized and duplicated in other states or locale because of such study’s background. The presentation and style of presenting the research article to the average reader might be a bit overwhelming considering that, although a descriptive study, certain areas are complicated and have heavy technical descriptions. The figures such as charts, tables and graphs are also readable and accurate, albeit it takes time for an average reader to understand them.
The articles is useful to nursing practice since it tries to address the issue of shortage of nurses due to the lack of qualified nursing faculty who hold master’s or doctorate degrees. The authors themselves tried to encourage all nurses to understand the value of an advanced formal education and the expectation to pursue it. The authors believe that the fastest way to increase the ranks of faculty nurses is to encourage more nurses to enter practice at the baccalaureate level as this academic route has been shown to make advancement for master’s and doctorate degrees more rapidly.