The lived experience of a nursing course failure

Collette Loftin, Shravan Devkota, Alee Friemel, Holly Jeffreys


Background and objective: Nursing remains one of the fastest growing occupations according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Factors contributing to the ongoing nursing shortage including too few nursing faculty, limited clinical space, and sluggish growth in nursing program enrollment/capacity. Although most nursing programs are under pressure to accept as many qualified applicants as possible, as recently as 2019, U.S. nursing programs reported turning away over 91,000 qualified applicants due to insufficient faculty and classroom and clinical space. Because each spot in the program is valuable - the ability to help all students from admission through to graduation is critical. The purpose of this study was to identify the lived experience of students who had failed a nursing course. The information gathered from this group of students will enable nursing faculty to develop methods to help decrease failure for future students.

Methods: This qualitative descriptive study utilized a phenomenological framework to determine the lived experience of baccalaureate nursing students who failed a nursing course. Semi-structured interviews were conducted during the summer and fall of 2021. 

Results: Literature reports numerous challenges of nursing school including difficulty maintaining a balance between life and studies. The findings reveal students may need additional help from faculty while navigating that balance. The findings of this study revealed four themes: student academic challenges, personal life events, testing difficulties, and coping with the aftermath of a course failure.

Conclusions: Early identification of students at-risk for a nursing course failure and implementation of success strategies may decrease the incidence of nursing course failure. Recommendations are included.

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Journal of Nursing Education and Practice

ISSN 1925-4040 (Print)   ISSN 1925-4059 (Online)

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