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Why do university students not choose a nursing degree at matriculation? An Italian cross-sectional study


  • Source of funding: None.
  • Conflict of interest: None.

Correspondence address: Alvisa Palese, School of Nursing, Udine University, Viale Ungheria 18, 33100 Udine, Italy; Tel: +39-0432-590926; Fax: +39(0)432590986; E-mail:



The objectives of this study were to describe (a) the reasons why students about to start university did not choose a nursing degree, (b) the source of information/data on which they based this decision, and (c) the accuracy of this information with regard to the nursing profession in Italy.


Although data are available for students who embark on a degree and the reason(s) why they choose nursing, few data are available for students at the point of matriculation who have not chosen a nursing degree.


A cross-sectional study design, including six Italian degree programmes randomly selected among the 12 available, was performed. A structured questionnaire was administered to 580 students willing to participate of the 1095 eligible (53%) in their first university lecture in autumn 2011.


Some 507 (87.4%) questionnaires were analysed. The main reason for not having chosen a nursing degree is the lack of interest in nursing (235; 47.2%), followed by not wanting contact with ill or dying people (87; 17.5%), the fear of contact with biological material (71; 14.2%) and the lack of recognition of nursing work (44; 8.8%). Among the participants, personal experience (186; 37.1%) and relatives (124; 24.8%) are the main sources of information on the nursing profession. Moreover, only 340 participants (67.1%) recognized the degree as a necessary qualification for nursing in Italy; the majority know nothing about nursing career opportunities (452; 89.2%) or the initial salary of a nurse (250; 49.3%). Conversely, 447 (88.2%) participants indicated correctly the responsibilities imposed on nurses by the law.


A considerable proportion of non-nursing students are not interested in the nursing profession and the information in their possession regarding nursing profession is incorrect.


Multiple strategies helping potential candidates to make the best career decision on the basis of valid information should be strengthened and offered during the secondary school, through nursing students, families, teachers and networks, and not just the media. In addition, efforts to improve the working conditions of nurses must be undertaken.