Aim. The aim of this paper is to report a study exploring the perceived stressors identified by a group of 70 students who undertook a part-time degree at one Irish university.
Background. In the literature on stress, part-time nursing students who are undertaking continuing education programmes appear to have received little attention. Stress amongst nurses is evident within the nursing literature but little information is available on the specific stressors that affect Registered Nurses who undertake further academic study. Anecdotally, students attending part-time programmes while working full-time report high levels of stress.
Method. Quantitative methods were used. While many instruments exist to measure overall stress, this study aimed to explore student's perceptions of specific stressors associated with academic study. We used a questionnaire developed from the literature on the topic.
Results. Factors related to writing assignments at degree level, fulfilling personal needs and academic demands, were perceived as major stressors by these students. Factors of little concern were financial issues and attendance on the programme. Individual items receiving highest mean scores were: trying to balance work commitments and the required study (mean 3·89, sd = 1) and the prospect of the final examination (mean 3·86, sd = 1). This study was limited by the use of convenience sampling and self-report methods. Larger studies are required to support the findings. In addition, student stress was not observed or measured.
Conclusion. Those involved in the delivery of nurse education programmes to part-time students need to consider the impact of the workload on student welfare, and to prepare students for demands of the programme.