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Impact of Stressors on Nursing Doctoral Students’ Motivation and Persistence

Part I: Comprehension


Volkert, Candela, and Bernacki (2018) have conducted research in the field of nursing education that has brought out essential information on the factors that affect nursing doctoral students’ decision-making with regard to their education development. First, the authors draw on their connections to prestigious academic institutions, which allow them to contribute extensive knowledge in nursing education and research to this study. The accuracy of the title reflects the narrow scope of the research aimed at distinguishing the motivations and stressors that encourage students to contemplate quitting their doctoral programs. The abstract is brief yet efficient at summarizing the research’s objectives, methods, findings, and implications in one paragraph.


Problem Statement: The issue of attrition rates has been considered highly significant, The authors analyzed the environmental stressors that affect students’ minds and their desire to leave (Volkert et al., 2018). The issue is vital because the country requires highly qualified specialists to provide care to patients, and the number of dropouts from programs to obtain a Ph.D. in the nursing field remains a frequent topic that needs more exploration.

Background Support: The background information helps emphasize the need for doctoral-prepared nurses and reveals where further studies regarding attrition rates for nursing doctoral students could be applied (Volkert et al., 2018). It highlights the growing number of doctoral programs in nursing and the high graduate attrition rate as a reason why this study is necessary.

Study Purpose: The study’s intent is also evident from the overall objective, which is to investigate the influence of environmental stressors on the attrition intentions of doctoral nursing students. This is an essential goal in creating strategies designed to lower attrition rates and promote student management in nursing doctoral programs (Volkert et al., 2018).

Literature Review

Currency of References

The study by Volkert et al. (2018) presents a literature review that mainly involves deliberately selected artifacts since they demonstrate a wide range of temporal coverage. It encompasses foundational theories and recent research research that mirror the dynamic nature of nursing education research research and stress management. For instance, studies by Jeong & Koh (2021) and Lee et al. (2021) show a connection to the modern research on stress, social support, and the effect on the health and learning satisfaction of students in nursing. The combination also emphasizes the validity of the study’s framework and establishes the research in the contemporary academic debate on nursing education’s issues and obstacles (Bellflowers, 2018). This methodical integration of seminal works and some of the latest research ensures that the study underscores every role of what is discussed nowadays in scholastic setup, offering a holistic vision historically influenced and perhaps attuned to modern woes (Lee et al., 2021). The judicious choice of literature not only corroborates the framework of the study but also adds value to academic discussion by showing how theoretical precepts are connected with empirical findings, which contribute to a deeper understanding of the forces that drive nursing doctoral students’ experiences and decision-making.

Critique of Cited Studies

Volkert et al. (2018) analyze the existing body of literature, namely the critique of cited studies, in a carefully designed strategy, indicating the gaps and opportunities to create new knowledge in doctoral nursing education. Their critical assessment also includes studies like those of Sharififard et al. (2020) and Bellflowers (2018), which are vital focal points in the general landscape of nursing education research. As they search for this interpretation, Volkert et al. (2018) focus on the nuances of how motivation, stress, and performance combined in the work of Sharififard et al. (2020) involving nursing students. Although Sharififard et al., as well as Volkert et al, provide insights into these factors, Volkert et al. wisely observe that their study targets academic burnout which indicates the result of these factors; nevertheless, they turn further their role in predicting dropout among doctoral nursing students. The inclusion of Bellflowers’ (2018) doctoral dissertation, which is about peer support for research-focused doctoral nursing students and persistence, speaks to the quality of literature assessed by Volkert et al. (2018). The comparative contrast between the findings of Bellflowers et al. and their own research on environmental stressors and intent to leave is vividly used by Volkert et al. to outline the uncharted actor in the attrition factors within the doctoral nursing student cohort.

Literature Summary

Overall, this literature review is able to succinctly synthesize currently held knowledge while identifying the research gap that this study sets out to address. It consolidates findings from a variety of resources, including Volkert’s work from before (2016) and the research by Lee, S et al., and Jeong & Koh (2021) that contextualizes the issue of attrition in nursing doctorate programs within a broader framework regarding student incentives, stress, and control environments. The summary of the related literature not only outlines the landscape of these studies but also highlights the specificity of the proposed study.

Framework/Theoretical Perspective

Framework Expression

The EVT as defined by Volkert, Candela, and Bernacki in 2018 acts as the guiding framework of the study since it deals with motivation and stress among nursing doctoral students. Motivation theory, EVT, which is based on an individual’s expectancies of achieving success and his or her perceived value of success, is a strong conceptual framework that enables a deeper understanding of the intricacies of doctoral students’ experiences (). It is well justified within the literature considering the theory is relevant for educational settings and it can capture the complexity of motivational dynamics in the context of academic perseverance.

Connection to Study

In the analysis within this study, the use of EVT is systematically connected to the effects that beliefs about success and the value of the tasks have on the intentions of the individuals to abandon their programs. This connection is crucial, since it helps to analyze the ways nursing doctoral students’ views on their educational path impact their motivation and, therefore, persistence or attrition (). The study thereby serves to generalize not the theoretical constructs but rather how they are played out in the unique setting of nursing doctoral education, thus broadening the usefulness of EVT from being limited to addressing issues relevant to the field.

Alternative Theory

Although EVT ensures the theoretical foundations of the study, implementing Self-Determination Theory (SDT) may enable some additional details. SDT, which highlights the need for autonomy, competence, and relatedness as mechanisms that could lead to intrinsic motivation, could add to the comprehension of how external influences and internal motivations integrate to affect the educational experience of doctoral nursing students. The above theory that focuses on motivation quality (intrinsic versus extrinsic) and their efforts could be complementary to EVT by offering a more complex model to understand the complex nature of doctoral student dropout.


The study develops a research question that should define the capacity of environmental stressors to predict the intentions of leaving nursing doctoral programs among nursing doctoral students. The purpose of this inquiry is to study the relationship between the factors that students perceive as stressful in the learning environment and the decision-making process in relation to program continuation or withdrawal, which may shed some light on factors that can influence attrition rates in doctoral studies for nursing.

Part II: Comparison and Analysis (Overview)

Methodology Overview

Volkert et al., (2018), used a methodology consisting of survey style and path analysis, which makes their approach effective for the scope of investigation. The design of this survey provides an opportunity to gather comprehensive data about different environmental stressors, and path analysis provides a sophisticated method to analyze the relationships between the environmental stressors and the students’ intention to leave. This process is in line with the Expectancy Value Theory that helps to clarify the effect of externality factors (stressors and support) that affect the motivation and intentions of college students.

Findings and Theoretical Alignment

The results suggest major indicators of the intentions to quit and these include the program stressors as well as the lack of the support and these are in tandem to the theoretical underpinnings of the study. The association of environmental stressors and intent to leave emphasizes the core of the Expectancy Value Theory, which is based on the assumption that external agents have a significant influence on motivation and intention. The study supports and contributes to the earlier research by focusing on the doctoral nursing context, such as Jeong & Koh (2021).

Discussion and Implications for Practice

Some of the major points derived from discussions concerning mitigating attrition rates emphasizing the role of supportive faculty-student relationships as well as family support are also found analogous to the according with the findings of Bellflowers (2018) highlighting the role of peer support. These implications are essential for nursing education stakeholders to enhance retention and high success rates among doctoral students. strengthen faculty-student relationships by developing established guided mentorship programs, evaluating appropriate, constructive feedback, and participating in a forum where doctoral students feel respected and heard. Institutions should be aware of the importance of family support, and as a result, they could conduct workshops and information sessions for families of doctoral students to educate them about the challenges and stress that come with doctoral studies and how they can support their students. By systematizing these comprehensive support systems, we will cover not only academic but also emotional needs that would contribute to a more resilient and engaged doctoral student population.

Acknowledgment of Limitations

The validity of the study increases because it recognizes its shortcomings, indicating possible directions for further research and admitting the intricacy of the studied phenomena.. This transparency leads to further analysis and confirmation of the results that ultimately means a more comprehensive understanding of the experiences of nursing doctoral students. restrictions lead to broader discussions on methodological diversity and the use of qualitative research to provide depth like their respective experiences and interpretations. Finally, further studies could investigate how institutional policies and culture affect students’ stress and motivation, providing a broader picture of the issues that may lead to doctoral student attrition. This openness not only reinforces the findings of the research but also provides an avenue for a complex approach to the problems of nursing doctoral students.


Bellflowers, L. A. (2018). The Effect of Peer Support on the Persistence of Research-focused Doctoral Nursing Students (Doctoral dissertation, University of West Georgia).

Jeong, Y. J., & Koh, C. K. (2021). Female nursing graduate students’ stress and health: the mediating effects of sense of coherence and social support. BMC nursing20(1), 1-7.

Lee, M., Na, H. M., Kim, B., Kim, S. Y., Park, J., & Choi, J. Y. (2021). Mediating effects of achievement emotions between peer support and learning satisfaction in graduate nursing students. Nurse Education in Practice52, 103003.

Sharififard, F., Asayesh, H., Hosseini, M. H. M., & Sepahvandi, M. (2020). Motivation, self-efficacy, stress, and academic performance correlation with academic burnout among nursing students. Journal of Nursing and Midwifery Sciences7(2), 88.

Volkert, D. R. (2016). Student motivation, stressors, and intent to leave a nursing PhD or DNP program: A national study using path analysis.

Volkert, D., Candela, L., & Bernacki, M. (2018). Student motivation, stressors, and intent to leave nursing doctoral study: A national study using path analysis. Nurse education today61, 210-215.


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