Letter to the Editor by Dang and Anderson to What Attracts Second Degree Students to a Career In Nursing

Professional Pathways in Nursing: Options to Seek, Start, and Sustain a Career

July 20, 2011

Response by Thao Dang and Karl Anderson to the article What Attracts Second Degree Students to a Career In Nursing by Deborah Raines (November 24, 2010).

Dear Editor:

As non-traditional older students in an accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program at Curry College, we read Deborah Raines' article, "What Attracts Second Degree Students to a Career In Nursing," with particular interest. Surely there are different motivators for students who are ten, twenty, or even thirty years older than their traditional undergraduate nursing program contemporaries.

Dr. Raines noted that prior studies have found second degree students to be motivated more by intrinsic factors than traditional students. They are also more able to outline a deliberate decision process to enter nursing. Supporting this difference, other studies have found that non-traditional students have distinctly different expectations for the educational process, preferences in teaching methodologies, as well as relationship expectations with faculty (Walker et al., 2007).

However, it might be helpful to take a second look at Dr. Raines' methodology for determining that second degree students are intrinsically rather than extrinsically motivated. Her findings are based entirely upon admission essays from applicants in an accelerated second degree program. It would be reasonable to expect that these essays were written with a strong emphasis on applicants' notion of what the admissions committee would want to hear. Surely, it would be reasonable to expect that candid comments concerning base extrinsic motivations such as flexible work hours, travel opportunities, and job security might be self-censored. Also, non-successful candidate essays were not considered. To the extent that essays are important in the application process, those that were utilized in the study contained content that met the approval of the admissions committee. Should not sample bias surely should be a consideration?

It is possible, perhaps likely, that traditional and non-traditional students are motivated differently in their career journey. However, utilizing admission essays as a source for this conclusion might provide a distorted image of second career students having loftier "intrinsic" goals and motivations than is actually the case. We suggest that additional research might be in order.

Thao Dang, BS (International Economics), BA (Pedagogy)

Karl Anderson, BA (Economics)
Dorchester, Massachusetts 02124


Raines, D. (2010). What attracts second degree students to a career in nursing? OJIN: The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, 16(1). Available: www.nursingworld.org/MainMenuCategories/ANAMarketplace/ANAPeriodicals/OJIN/TableofContents/Vol-16-2011/No1-Jan-2011/Articles-Previous-Topics/Second-Degree-Students-and-Nursing.aspx

Walker, J., Martin, T., Haynie, L., Norwood, A., White, J., & Grant, L. (2007). Preferences for teaching methods in a baccalaureate nursing program: how second-degree and traditional students differ. Nursing Education Perspectives, 28(5), 246-250.