Nursing Students in Higher Education: Implications for Sleep and Learning
Sleep problems within student groups are a growing issue, with poor sleep potentially becoming a greater issue for nursing students working rotating shifts. This project investigated the student experience of undergraduate nursing courses on sleep, learning ability and the implications for higher education.
This mixed-methods study was conducted in two parts: a focus group study exploring student experiences of nursing courses – analysed with thematic analysis (TA) – and a survey devised from the TA results, further exploring the nursing students experiences within higher education and the impact on sleep habits and learning.
This project was student-centred, with the student PI implementing the study from conception to completion. Student research students were also trained in qualitative research methods by the PI, improving their research skills. The students were able to contribute to recruitment and complete the thematic analysis under the supervision of the PI.
Although previous research has explored the impact of lack of formal education for nurses about the role of sleep in maintaining high performance, this study was able to explore whether this issue was also prevalent in nursing students and therefore whether interventions targeting sleep should be focused on this demographic.
Both the focus groups and follow-up survey were able to yield important data about the experiences of student nurses and the impact on sleep and higher education. The mixed-methods approach allowed the nursing students to talk freely about their experiences and what they would like to see improved in a small, safe environment.
From this, we are now able to consider and potentially implement relevant interventions to target sleep and teaching/ programme structure to improve the wellbeing of nursing students in higher education. We can then encourage changes to be made in an impactful way, by seeking to improve not only nursing experiences whilst students are in the university setting but also becoming aware of issues faced whilst on placement.
The students involved in this project as PI and research assistants were able to gain valuable experience in teaching and qualitative research methods respectively. Both research assistants have been able to utilise these skills during their degree and have expressed an interest in continuing research in sleep or education fields. The PI was able to gain valuable teaching experience, training the RAs in thematic analysis has improved her teaching skills and encouraged her towards teaching in a higher education setting.