University after VET: The challenges faced by the Enrolled Nurse

Patricia Anne Logan, David van Reyk, Amy N Johnston, Elspeth Hillman, Jennifer L Cox, Judith Salvage-Jones, Judith Anderson

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In Australia, many Enrolled Nurses (EN) complete vocational education training (VET), undertake clinical work, and then progress into a tertiary, Registered Nurse (RN), program. Transition into university for ENs is typically into the second year of degree programs, with credit awarded for first year courses including basic bioscience subjects, predicated on recognition of prior learning. However, in educational literature ENs report that their prior study left them feeling unprepared for university and that VET, even coupled with work experience, may not adequately reinforce foundational science knowledge sufficient to support direct entry to second year biosciences. Moreover, bioscience subjects are internationally acknowledged as central to nursing students’ ‘science anxiety,’ and are ‘gate-keeper’ subjects in pre-registration programs, providing critical underpinning of theoretical knowledge for many other subjects. Indeed, a recent (2015) Australian government report on pathways into higher education highlighted concerns around modes of transition into university, citing significantly lower success rates for students from a low socio-economic status (LSES) background who frequently enter the tertiary sector via vocational pathways. This paper will explore, using a case study approach, the issues of transition from vocational training to the university programs across multiple Bachelor of Nursing (BN) programs (tertiary institutions) in both rural and metropolitan contexts from several Australian states. It will highlight challenges reported by these EN students that limit their capacity to engage in traditional tertiary programs including concomitant shift work requirements. ENs are typically female, mature age students with carer responsibilities, who study in isolation, online and via distance learning, further compounding issues of tertiary transition. The paper will describe a multi-institutional project designed by a multidisciplinary academic team, to enhance transition skills and build academic resilience for these ENs, to assist with their engagement and success in their BN studies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)73-84
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Perspectives of Applied Academic Practice
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Grant Number

  • 101536


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