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Exploring strategies to improve student success in an accelerated weekend program

December 14, 2023

Kathleen Apollon-Ferron, RN MSN CCRN

Program Director, Undergraduate Nursing Weekend Program, Mercy University

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of EAB.

Adult learners who enroll in accelerated weekend programs may face various factors influencing their decision. These factors could include time constraints due to professional obligations, family responsibilities, or personal commitments that make it difficult to attend traditional nursing programs. Mercy University’s accelerated weekend program allows adult learners to complete their nursing education in less time than traditional programs. This educational format means new graduates can enter the nursing field sooner and start earning a salary. Additionally, it provides flexibility for those with busy schedules during the week, as they can attend classes on weekends.

The capstone project focused on exploring strategies to improve student success; this program is relatively new, and the work is in progress. Any educational program providing an accelerated format may carry challenges that can interfere with the student’s successful completion. The intense program format can be challenging for students who need more time to absorb and understand complex concepts, which may impede the student’s successful completion of the program. The compressed schedule may require students to juggle multiple courses simultaneously, leading to significant reading, assignments, and exams. Along with the coursework work, there are clinical hours that are part of the program requirement.

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By gathering information from student surveys, tracking course progress, and receiving direct feedback from students, our faculty and leadership were able to identify the obstacles to success that students were facing. This allowed us to take targeted and effective action to help students overcome these challenges and achieve their goals. The nursing program admits students from diverse backgrounds pursuing a second degree. In the most recently admitted cohort of May 2026, out of 54 students, 41 completed the demographic survey. Among these, 32% identified as Hispanic/Latino, 61% as Black/African American, 24% as White, 7% as Asian, and 5% as American Indian. Below are some of the responses provided by the students.

How many hours do you work per week?

  • 52% of people answered 36-40 hours
  • 7% of people answered over 40 hours

Approximately how many miles do you travel to Mercy College one-way?

  • 71% of people answered 0-30 miles
  • 24% of people answered 31-60 miles
  • 5% of people answered over 60 miles

Please share any additional responsibilities other than work or school that you may have:

  • Children: 45%
  • Elderly Parent: 32%
  • Disabled Adults: 15%
  • Additional: 15%

A key solution to overcoming identified barriers is to provide students with access to resources and tailor programs to meet their individual needs.

For 2023, we implemented student success workshops, mentorship, and faculty development workshops, evaluate programs through student surveys, and use an anatomage table as a visual learning aid. The Anatomage Table is a technologically advanced visual learning aid used in anatomy. A virtual dissection table allows students and educators to study and explore the human body in 3D.

Planned actions for 2024:

  • Changes in the sequence map for Fall 2024 to create a better work-life-school balance during weekends
  • Collaborating with clinical placement and partnering facilities to increase diverse clinical sites
  • Conducting surveys for recent graduates and current students twice a semester
  • Monthly meetings for team members to collaborate, discuss the collected data, and work towards improvement

Mercy University is proud to announce that in May of 2023, the first weekend cohort successfully graduated with 26 students. Of these students, 25 have already taken their licensing exam, and an impressive 22 have passed the NCLEX exam. Our ultimate goal is to ensure that all students complete the program successfully and are equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to pass the board certification, thereby demonstrating the effectiveness of our program.

Reflection

Participating in the Rising Higher Education Leaders Fellowship allowed me to thoroughly explore available resources for student success. The interaction with my EAB partner and peers from various academic backgrounds, who share a common goal, was enlightening.

References

Ackerman-Barger, K., DeWitty, V. P., Cooper, J., & Anderson, M. R. (2020). An Innovative Approach to Advancing Academic Success for Underrepresented Nursing Students Using the Collective Impact Model. Nursing education perspectives41(5), 299–300. https://doi.org/10.1097/01.NEP.0000000000000718

EAB: “The Student Success Strategy Playbook

EAB: “Rising Higher Education Leaders Fellowship monthly session: Overcoming the Pitfalls of Strategic Planning”

Williams, W. M., & Dahan, T. A. (2022). Exploring the Nursing Universal Retention and Success Model for Student Success in a School of Nursing. Nurse educator47(6), 342–346. https://doi.org/10.1097/NNE.0000000000001228

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