Date of Award

Summer 2008

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Foundations & Leadership


Community College Leadership

Committee Director

Alan M. Schwitzer

Committee Member

Dennis E. Gregory

Committee Member

Shana Pribesh


Large portions of the United States are experiencing a shortage of nurses in the workplace. In 2001 the American Hospital Association reported that there were 126,000 vacancies for RNs nationwide. Sixty percent of all U.S. educated RNs who entered the field in 2000 received their education at the associate degree level and 79% of these associate degree recipients graduated from a community college. Improving completion rates in nursing programs is one major strategy in the effort to relieve this shortage of nurses.

The intent of this research was to study the effect of various factors on the academic achievement of students in associate degree nursing programs. The researcher collected data from participants at five Virginia community colleges who maintained nursing programs. All of the selected colleges were in rural or suburban areas in the western portion of the Commonwealth.

Consistent with the literature for the general college population, the researcher expected that full-time nursing students' GPAs would be most affected by the number of weekly hours of outside employment they maintained. Differences in traditional and non-traditional students, career-related and non career-related employment, social support, and perceived stress levels were also considered as contributing factors. This research study's findings indicated that, contrary to the findings in previous literature, the positive influence of social support and the negative impact of stress affected GPA more than outside employment among this specific population. Social support explained seven percent of the variance among mean grade point average and perceived stress level explained an additional three percent.