Equitable academic preparation: A structured onboarding program for incoming graduate nursing students

Edmund J.Y. Pajarillo, Kimberly H. Korn


Background and objective: Nurses who return to school to obtain higher education come with varying levels of professional, educational and technological competencies. Some are new graduates, others have not been in school for a decade, and several find educational technology difficult to navigate. Returning to school can be challenging because graduate programs require complex skills in order for students to succeed. Onboarding, the process of organizational socialization, also known as the orientation process, is a relevant element in the retention and progression of students in graduate education. Onboarding differs from school to school, ranging from half a day to a weeklong on-campus orientation. This research is about a structured onboarding program built into a graduate nursing course and specifically addresses the needs of students in order to succeed in their studies. This research presents insights into the Graduate Student Onboarding – Professional Development Program (GSO-PDP), a structured onboarding designed to assist graduate nursing students with their adjustment back to school, enhance their learning, and achieve their graduate degree successfully. It is built into the Nursing Informatics class and is a month-long process. The research offers some understanding of the usefulness of the GSO-PDP to incoming graduate nursing students.

Methods: The study uses the qualitative paradigm, in particular, a case study design. This is an examination of the four modules of the GSO-PDP: Elements of Research, Scholarly Writing and Nursing Documentation, Academic Support Services, and Student Life. Student volunteers participated in focus group interviews to evaluate the program. 

Results: The following were recurring themes identified from focus group interviews: “APA Refresher Overload,” “Bridging the Gap,” “Relearning English Grammar,” “Navigating the Learning and University Maze,” and “Not Really Computer Savvy.” It is evident that most of the elements of the GSO-PDP are beneficial to students in enhancing their adjustment and return to school for further education. The onboarding program also facilitates and enhances student learning. Focus group participants offered some helpful recommendations to improve the program.

Conclusions & Implications: This is an innovative and structured onboarding approach to help students with diverse backgrounds to succeed in the Master’s program. Participants generally described the program favorably, but did make suggestions for improvement.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5430/jnep.v11n7p1

Journal of Nursing Education and Practice

ISSN 1925-4040 (Print)   ISSN 1925-4059 (Online)

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