Vocation, Friendship and Resilience: A Study Exploring Nursing Student and Staff Views on Retention and Attrition

Graham R. Williamson*, Val Health , Tracey Proctor-Childs
School of Nursing and Midwifery. Plymouth University, Drake Circus, Plymouth, PL48AA, UK

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© Williamson et al.; Licensee Bentham Open.

open-access license: This is an open access article licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted, non-commercial use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the work is properly cited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the School of Nursing and Midwifery. Plymouth University, Drake Circus, Plymouth, PL48AA, UK; Tel: 01752587476; E-mail:



There is international concern about retention of student nurses on undergraduate programmes. United Kingdom Higher Education Institutions are monitored on their attrition statistics and can be penalised financially, so they have an incentive to help students remain on their programmes beyond their moral duty to ensure students receive the best possible educational experience.


to understand students’ and staff concerns about programmes and placements as part of developing our retention strategies.


This study reports qualitative data on retention and attrition collected as part of an action research study.


One University School of Nursing and Midwifery in the South West of England.


Staff, current third year and ex-student nurses from the adult field.


Data were collected in focus groups, both face-to face and virtual, and individual telephone interviews. These were transcribed and subjected to qualitative content analysis.


Four themes emerged: Academic support, Placements and mentors, Stresses and the reality of nursing life, and Dreams for a better programme.


The themes Academic support, Placements and mentors and Stresses and the reality of nursing life, resonate with international literature. Dreams for a better programme included smaller group learning. Vocation, friendship and resilience seem instrumental in retaining students, and Higher Education Institutions should work to facilitate these. ‘Vocation’ has been overlooked in the retention discussions, and working more actively to foster vocation and belongingness could be important.

Keywords: : Student nurse, retention, qualitative research, action research.