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Nursing students’ career preferences: a Norwegian study


Torill Kloster: e-mail:


Title. Nursing students’ career preferences: a Norwegian study

Aim.  This paper is a report of a study to identify Norwegian undergraduate nursing students’ career preferences at the beginning and end of their nursing education programme, together with their reasons for these preferences.

Background.  International studies have shown that recruitment and retention of nurses in areas such as aged care and psychiatric nursing is difficult. It is important to know why some working areas are popular whilst others are not, so that nursing schools produce graduates who meet the needs of the community.

Methods.  All students starting their nursing education programme in 2001/2002 in five Norwegian university colleges were invited to complete questionnaires at the beginning and end of their nursing education programme. In phase 1, 620 of 782 commencing students completed questionnaires (response rate 79·2%). In their third year, phase 2, 473 questionnaires were distributed (response rate 82·6%, n = 386). The questionnaire included closed questions about career preferences and open-ended questions seeking the reasons for the preferences.

Results.  The study revealed changes in preferences between the beginning and the end of the nursing education programme. In phase 1, midwifery and paediatric nursing were ranked highest and in phase 2 working in medical/surgical ward, midwifery and psychiatric nursing were preferred. Working in aged care institutions remained unpopular throughout. Clinical experiences and professional challenges were often given as reasons for preferences.

Conclusion.  Nursing educators, clinical nurses and policymakers must reconsider their priorities and improve working conditions for nurses in aged care in order to meet society's need for nurses.