Remaining Connected with our Graduates: A Pilot Study

Joy Penman, Eddie L Robinson, Wendy M Cross
Interdisciplinary Journal of e-Skills and Lifelong Learning  •  Volume 15  •  2019  •  pp. 043-057

This study aims to determine where nursing students from a metropolitan university subsequently work following graduation, identify the factors that influence decisions to pursue careers in particular locations, ascertain educational plans in the immediate future; and explore the factors that might attract students to pursue postgraduate study.

The global nursing shortage and high attrition of nursing students remain a challenge for the nursing profession. A recurrent pattern of maldistribution of nurses in clinical specialities and work locations has also occurred. It is imperative that institutions of learning examine their directions and priorities with the goal of meeting the mounting health needs of the wider community.

Qualitative and quantitative data were obtained through an online 21-item questionnaire. The questionnaire gathered data such as year of graduation, employment status, the location of main and secondary jobs, the principal area of nursing activity, and plans for postgraduate study. It sought graduates’ reasons for seeking employment in particular workplaces and the factors encouraging them to pursue postgraduate study.

This study is meaningful and relevant as it provided a window to see the gaps in higher education and nursing practice, and opportunities in research and collaboration. It conveys many insights that were informative, valuable and illuminating in the context of nurse shortage and nurse education. The partnership with hospitals and health services in providing education and support at the workplace is emphasized.

Twenty-three students completed the online questionnaire. All respondents were employed, 22 were working in Australia on a permanent basis (96%), 19 in urban areas (83%) with three in regional/rural areas (13%), and one was working internationally (4%). This pilot study revealed that there were varied reasons for workplace decisions, but the most common answer was the opportunity provided to students to undertake their graduate year and subsequent employment offered. Moreover, the prevailing culture of the organization and high-quality clinical experiences afforded to students were significant contributory factors. Data analysis revealed their plans for postgraduate studies in the next five years (61%), with critical care nursing as the most popular specialty option. The majority of the respondents (78%) signified their interest in taking further courses, being familiar with the educational system and expressing high satisfaction with the university’s program delivery.

The results of the pilot should be tested in a full study with validated instruments in the future. With a larger dataset, the conclusions about graduate destinations and postgraduate educational pursuits of graduates would be generalizable, valid and reliable.

Further research to explore how graduates might be encouraged to work in rural and regional areas, determine courses that meet the demand of the market, and how to better engage with clinical partners are recommended.

It is expected that the study will be extended in the future to benefit other academics, service managers, recruiters, and stakeholders to alert them of strategies that may be used to entice graduates to seek employment in various areas and plan for addressing the educational needs of postgraduate nursing students. The end goal is to help enhance the nursing workforce by focusing on leadership and retention.

Future directions for research will include canvassing a bigger sample of alumni students and continuously monitoring graduate destinations and educational aspirations. How graduates might be encouraged to work in rural and regional areas will be further explored. Further research will also be undertaken involving graduates from other universities and other countries in order to compare the work practice of graduates over the same time frame.

nursing, graduate destinations, educational aspirations, clinical experiences
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