The type and amount of paid work while studying influence academic performance of first year nursing students: An inception cohort study
Nurse Education Today
School of Nursing and Midwifery / Centre for Nursing and Health Service Research
Background: Working while engaging in tertiary studies can have potential benefits for students in developing their repertoire of employability skills, including teamwork, time management, customer service and interpersonal communication. Not unexpectedly engaging in excessive hours of work can have a detrimental effect on students' grades. Yet little is known about the impact of engaging in different types of paid work (nursing or non-nursing), and the amounts, on first year nursing students' academic performance across different nursing programs.
Objectives: The aim of this study was to examine the association between: a) amount; and b) type of term-time weekly paid work, particularly its effect on academic performance, among commencing undergraduate students in the first semester of nursing studies across different nursing programs.
Design: Inception cohort study.
Settings: Four tertiary institutes across Australia and New Zealand.
Participants: All commencing Bachelor of Nursing students attending Orientation sessions at their respective institutes were invited to participate in the study. The median age of participants was 23 years, the majority (87.5%) were female and nearly two-thirds were non-school leavers. Among those in paid work, the median hours worked was 20 h.
Methods: A baseline survey, completed by consenting students at the start of their Orientation session included items related to respondents' demographic data, self-reported paid work engagement (type and hours); we also requested their permission to link grade point average (academic performance data) at the end of first semester. Data were analysed using SPSS Version 25.
Results: A total of 1314 students completed the survey and 89% of survey respondents agreed for their survey to be linked to academic grades at the end of the semester. There was an inverse relationship between time spent in weekly paid work and academic performance. Additionally, three predictors emerged as statistically significant for high grade point average: (i) engaging in non-nursing related work (AOR: 1.64, 95% CI: 1.19–2.26); (ii) not being first in family to attend university (AOR: 1.57, 95% CI: 1.20–2.07) and; (iii) being a school-leaver (AOR: 1.49, 95% CI: 1.12–1.98).
Conclusions: Despite the diversity among undergraduate nursing students studying across Australasia, it is evident that the amount and type of paid work engagement can impact on students' academic performance while studying. This underscores the importance for tertiary institutes to not only support students in their learning but also understand the need to achieve the right balance, in working while studying, to support students' academic success.