Research Critique: Advancing Nurse Education

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Research Critique Advancing Nurse Education

Advancing nursing education is critical to improving patient outcomes. Various studies have proved that better patient outcomes are connected with increased nursing education and the commitment of nurses to improve their educational achievements. Since higher educational achievement is indispensable both to the nursing profession and individual nurses, it is of paramount importance to analyze various studies done on the subject to ascertain their credibility. Throughout this paper, the analysis of a study on education and nursing is done to determine its reliability in the nursing practice and evidence-based practice.

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Advancing Nurse Education

This essay is an analysis of a research study conducted to investigate the perceived motivators, benefits, and barriers to advancing nursing education. Sarver, Cichra, and Kline (2015) conducted this study with the aim of establishing the barriers to higher educational attainments by nurses and identifying solutions to them. Evidently, higher educational achievements among nurses are associated with improved patient outcome, fewer medication errors and reduced mortality rates (Sarver et al., 2015; Blegen, Goode, Park, Vaughn, & Spetz, 2013). This evidence motivated the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies (2011) to recommend that 80% of Registered Nurses (RN) should hold Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). In fact, the information contained in this paper explains whether the research done by Sarver et al. (2015) is valid and reliable to recommend achievement of higher nursing education.

Study Authors

For any research study to be reliable, the investigators must be competent in identifying research problems, formulating objectives and hypothesis, applying reliable sampling techniques, using reliable and valid tools for data collection and analyzing data appropriately (Ingham-Broomfield, 2008). Most importantly, the investigators must be competent in research methods (Ingham-Broomfield, 2008, p. 103).

The three authors of this research article are holders of Master’s Degrees in Nursing (MSN). Wendy Sarver advanced from RN to MSN, which is an indication that she understands the need to make progress in nursing education. In fact, it is possible to take this study into consideration because Server is the director of nursing research at Metro Health System. It means she understands the process of conducting a research study. Similarly, Nancy Chichra advanced from RN to MSN and is the director of education at Metro Health System. Finally, Melissa Kline is equally a holder of MSN and is the vice president and an associate chief nursing officer at Metro Health System. The integration of competencies in nursing research, education and leadership by the three authors makes this study reliable and credible.

Literature Review

Sarver et al. (2015) introduce the article by applying an extensive amount of literature in the introduction that addresses the need for further education among nurses. Subsequently, the literature review section follows relating to the same topic. Therefore, it is difficult for the reader to distinguish between the introduction and the literature review. However, the analyzed research articles comprehensively address the topic of the article.

The major areas that Sarver et al. (2015) observed are patient outcomes, barriers to improving education in nursing and the significance of the BSN degree. The literature reveals that patients who received care from highly educated nurses had a limited length of stay in hospitals (Blegen et al., 2013). Additionally, many research articles in the literature review section indicate that nurses have the urge to advance their education, but they are not convinced that it will create a difference in their current situation (Nursing Collaborative 2015 Yellow Team, 2011). Furthermore, nurses experience limitations such as financial burdens. Finally, the authors identify various articles that associate the BSN degree with improved patient outcome.

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Strength and Limitation of Literature Review Section

The literature review with regard to any research study needs to be up-to-date to address present issues. Sarver et al. (2015) wrote the article in 2015 and consulted many research articles and professional websites less than ten years old. Additionally, the authors focus on discussing the topic all through the literature review and connect the research articles relating to the subject. However, there is a risk of the literature review section being unreliable because Sarver et al. (2015) consult articles published 12 years ago to address the current issue of advancement in the nursing education. Nevertheless, the literature review section discusses the topic exhaustively and is, thus, dependable.

Problem Statement

Throughout the article, Sarver et al. (2015) do not provide clear problem statement. Additionally, there is no mention of the research question. Therefore, readers are not fully aware of the problem that led to the study. The readers of this article must take a keen interest in reading the abstract and the literature review to notice the problem statement.

Readers can identify within the literature review that many nurses do not understand the need for further education. Moreover, a considerable number of them have some limitations that prevent them from applying for higher education. The literature review describes the issue in detail, citing reliable sources to inform the reader about the problem. Accordingly, it is challenging to understand the real issue that Sarver et al. (2015) are addressing.

Study Purpose

Sarver et al. (2015) identify the aim of the study in the abstract. The purpose of the study is important because it makes the aim of the research clear (Bahçekapili, Fis Erümit, Göktas, & Sözbilir, 2013). The purpose addresses three primary areas of focus in the article, namely the perceived motivators, benefits, and barriers for RNs returning to school to obtain a BSN degree. Similarly, the main topic contains the three areas of focus. Furthermore, in the abstract, the reader can notice the subsequent sentence about the background of the study talking about patient outcome. Therefore, it is clear from the beginning that the article will address the three areas in regard to the patient outcome. Interestingly, the topic has a statement that talks about removing the existing barriers as a measure of improving success in the advancement of education. However, it was not among the article’s aims to address that. Consequently, the reader cannot understand whether the issue of removing the barriers will be addressed.

Consistency between the Literature Review, Problem, and Purpose Statements

The literature review remains consistent in addressing the three areas of focus in the article and explicitly cites the barriers that nurses experience when seeking more education. Sarver et al. (2015) begin by identifying a source that appreciates the significance of nurses to the health care system. Next, a reference to the recommendation of IOM is made regarding the need for 80% of RNs to have BSN degrees by 2020 (IOM, 2011). Afterward, more literature is cited on the importance of BSN nurses. Finally, the authors identify different sources that explain why many nurses do not apply for higher education. Therefore, there is an apparent consistency between the literature review and the three areas of focus.

Target Population for the Study

Sarver et al. (2015) articulate in the article that the target population was registered nurses (RNs), 1,348 in number, who were within the hospital system. The hospital system was a large urban medical facility. This population is reliable because this research study addresses the need for RNs to obtain higher education. Moreover, the target population is appropriate because Sarver et al. (2015) obtained the list of all the nurses in the hospital system. However, it is a challenge to generalize the studies to nurses who are in the peripheral facilities because the perceptions of nurses in the urban areas and rural areas can differ.

Sampling Procedure Used in the Study

Sarver et al. (2015) do not explain in the article how they devised the sample. They obtained a list of all the nurses in the hospital and planned to email all of them. This arrangement was suitable because the study population was convenient (1,348) compared to the chosen interview method (email). From the choice of the population and the plan to conduct the interview to any willing nurse, it is apparent that the authors did not spend a considerable amount of time for selecting the right sample for the study. Therefore, there is a risk of their conclusion being flawed.

Characteristics of the Sample

From reading the article, there is no consideration of various characteristics in choosing the sample. Therefore, the conclusion of the study cannot be applied to every nurse. For instance, the need to obtain higher education could be influenced by gender, ethnicity, and the background of the nurses. However, Sarver et al. (2015) did not utilize such demographic variables when conducting the study. In the results section, the response was only received from 24.6% of the target population, 93 of which were women aged 43 years. Therefore, readers can conclude that convenient sampling was used for this study. Evidently, the results from convenient sampling cannot be generalized to the whole population because there is a high risk of bias (Simundic, 2013).

Representativeness of Sample Concerning the Target Population

In fact, there is no explanation regarding the sampling strategy used. Sarver et al. (2015) obtained a comprehensive list of all registered nurses from the Human Resource Department. Furthermore, the authors emailed all the nurses explaining the risks and benefits of participating in the study. Therefore, there was an assumption that the entire population could be involved. In this regard, if all nurses could have responded, the authors could have received reliable information about perceived benefits, barriers, and motivators in advancing nursing education. Thus, involving 1,348 nurses was appropriate because it could avoid bias due to the larger available sample.

Research Design

The research was a cross-sectional study, and it used descriptive statistics in the evaluation of perceived motivators, barriers, and benefits of obtaining a BSN degree. The study method aimed to use 1,348 nurses. This method was a one-time interaction with the registered nurses through email. Therefore, it sought to describe their perception after collecting necessary information.

Strengths and Limitations of Study Design in Relation to Study Purpose

The cross-sectional design is appropriate for this study because Sarver et al. (2015) aimed to conduct the survey for a shorter period. They wanted to interact only once with the nurses through the email to understand their perceptions regarding advancing their education. Additionally, the descriptive design is appropriate because the authors only wanted to understand the attitudes of the nurses toward education and the existing barriers.

However, this design cannot lead to a detailed understanding of the perceptions of nurses. For instance, attitudes of people regarding issues change over time. Therefore, follow-up is necessary to understand their point of view at a given time. Sarver et al. (2015) aimed to conclude the research findings using the design for a shorter period, which might not give reliable results.

Two Study Variables

The variables in the study are identifiable. In this case, two dependent variables are examined, namely perceived barriers and the perceived benefits. Sarver et al. (2015) wanted to see how the nurses understood the benefits of higher education. Similarly, they sought to understand if the nurses recognized the barriers that prevented them from applying for higher education. These two variables were significant because authors could understand the view of RNs regarding higher education. From the responses, Sarver et al. (2015) could examine the relationship between the barriers and benefits and make a valid conclusion.

Data Collection Process

In the method section, Sarver et al. (2015) explain how they performed data collection. However, they do not discuss the process in detail. First, the team used the findings from the previous anonymous survey. Then, the five-point Likert survey was developed with themes that emerged from the survey. Afterward, three categories of questions were made that included perceived benefits (10 questions), barriers (17 questions), and motivation (14 questions). Thereafter, the team visited shared governance meetings to introduce the study and encourage RNs to participate. Finally, the authors emailed the questions to the registered nurses (participants).

Strengths and Limitations of the Data Collection Process

The strength of the data collection process is seen by the aggressiveness that Sarver et al. (2015) had in mobilizing the participation in the research. They sent emails to potential participants and later gave Flayers as a measure of encouraging participation.

The weakness is that the investigators did not monitor who was responding to the questions. For instance, some participants could have given their friends questions to answer instead of them. Therefore, the method of data collection is not sufficiently reliable.

Process Used to Protect Participants

The article does not contain sufficient information regarding the protection of participants. However, the ethical considerations are observed such as obtaining permission from the hospital review board. Additionally, registered nurses were informed of the risks and benefits of the study. In this regard, Sarver et al. (2015) only explained that they made the participants aware, and they obtained permission to access them. Finally, they ensured anonymity of the participants. However, the authors did not explain in detail how they protected the participants.

Evaluation of Participant Protection

The primary strength is in the survey segment where Sarver et al. (2015) ensured the privacy of the nurses. Another advantage is noticed when they allowed the participants to either participate or withdraw from the study. The information regarding obtaining consent is not provided.

However, the limitation is the use of email as a method of data collection. The researchers could learn where the information came from; thus, the private lives of the participants could be compromised.

Data Analysis

Before the results section, Sarver et al. (2015) explain how they performed the data analysis. The collected data was analyzed using descriptive statistics. Tabulation of the results of the survey was done using frequencies, mean, and standard deviation. Then, the authors performed statistical evaluation using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) version 22.0. However, no inferential statistics were provided and no level of significance was set in evaluating the findings. Evidently, the data analysis simply led to a description of the results and not a proper conclusion of the study. However, the results from the descriptive statistics are necessary to give an overview of the nurses’ perception of barriers, motivators, and benefits.


In the results section, Sarver et al. (2015) discuss the findings in detail using descriptive statistics. For the purpose of this assignment, two variables are considered, namely perceived benefits and perceived barriers. The highest ranked perceived benefits according to the Likert scale include job opportunities, knowledge, and personal satisfaction. On the other hand, the biggest perceived barriers include books and supplies expenses, lack of tuition reimbursement and time commitment. Evidently, the nurses appreciate the application of evidence-based practice in the clinical environment by acknowledging that the improvement of education would lead to increased knowledge. However, while providing the reasons behind the barriers, it becomes obvious that are beyond their control such us tuition reimbursement and time commitment. Therefore, the results section leads to the findings that Sarver et al. (2015) were searching for so that they can find a solution.

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The believability of Study Findings

The study findings are reliable because Sarver et al. (2015) targeted RNs and asked questions specific to the profession of nursing. Furthermore, the researchers asked nurses who had been employed for an average age of 12.89 years and who had worked for an average of 15.88 years. These nurses had experience with the profession to provide their perceptions of barriers and benefits. However, the findings cannot be sufficiently trusted because the participants were responding to the questionnaires through the email. It is evident that the anonymity in the survey could have led to other people, other than nurses to participate in the research, such as their friends or spouses. Finally, Sarver et al. (2015) conclude by saying that nurses value education, but they require assistance. From the descriptive statistics results, it is evident that most nurses recognized the importance of acquiring more education. Thus, since the study targeted RNs, the study findings can be considered dependable.

Study Limitations

Sarver et al. (2015) state that the reliability of the tools was not determined (p.156). Moreover, the authors used a convenient sample. Therefore, the results of the study cannot be applied to all the RNs due to these factors. The authors did not ensure proper inclusion of the RNs in the study. Thereafter, the email method of collecting data is not sufficiently reliable as other people could participate in the study. However, considering the study design and the participants, the study can be applied to the evidence-based practice by recommending the need to prevent barriers to higher education.

Major Implications of Study Findings

The study investigated three parameters, namely perceived benefits, motivators, and barriers. From the findings, it is obvious that nurses were willing to attend higher educational establishments. However, they were experiencing some obstacles. Furthermore, Sarver et al. (2015) identified some motivators to achieving higher education. Therefore, authors could identify ways to address the barriers and strengthen the motivators to ensure nurses applied for higher education.


The research study conducted by Sarver et al. (2015) identifies why nurses are not applying for higher education. The authors combined their skills in education, research, and leadership in examining the perceived benefits, barriers, and motivators to attaining higher education. The cross-sectional descriptive design was used, which was appropriate for this study. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics and SPSS for a proper description of the variables. Evidently, the lesson from this study is that nurses are willing to apply for higher education, but they experience some barriers. Therefore, I can learn how to overcome the obstacles in my way to obtaining higher education. Additionally, the study can be used in the evidence-based practice as a source of the barriers that nurses experience so that those nurses seeking higher education can avoid them.

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