Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
National data provides evidence there is a significant gap between the number of first-generation college students (FGCs) and members of underrepresented minority groups (URMs) who are enrolling in baccalaureate programs of nursing (BSN) and those that persist beyond graduation and become members of the nursing workforce. There is a need to graduate more underrepresented student populations from BSN programs and understanding their progression through baccalaureate education can inform our efforts to support them. The purpose of this study was to explore and understand the needs of FGCs and URMs enrolled in BSN programs and to use online mentoring as a method to track progression and capture the students’ perspective. Mentoring is one approach nursing programs use to recruit URMs, however its use in the online environment has not been explored in the literature. This study used a constructivist philosophy and grounded theory methodology to develop a framework that explained the progression of baccalaureate nursing education and validated the use of online mentoring to support and retain FGC and URM groups. With institutional review board (IRB) approval, 38 FGCs and URMs from 6 different BSN programs participated in a 16-week online mentoring program. Over 250 discussion postings and 12 one-time in-depth interviews were collected as data from August 2017 to May 2019. Demographic data and a program evaluation were also collected as data. Research memos were compared to data collected to contribute to the context and rigor of the study. Constant comparative analysis was used to develop a framework that explained the progression through BSN education from the students’ perspective. The framework developed uses the categories of seeking help, coping and accountability as reported by FGCs and URMs. Results from the program evaluation indicated 65% (N=13) of participants were more satisfied with their performance in school and 75% (N=15) of participants reported an improvement in their professional skills prior to participating in the program. The findings from this study contribute to what is known about how FGCs and URMs progress through BSN education and supports the use of online mentoring as a strategy to assist and retain these groups.