Date Approved


Date Posted


Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department or School

Leadership and Counseling

Committee Member

David M. Anderson, Ed.D., Chair

Committee Member

James E. Berry, Ed.D.

Committee Member

David Clifford, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jaclynn Tracy, Ph.D.


This qualitative study using a phenomenological case study and grounded-theory design was conducted to examine the phenomena of nursing-student recovery following a failure in a clinical nursing course. For the purpose of this study nursing-student recovery was defined as: The academic progression of a student who failed a core clinical nursing course, and subsequently successfully completed the course, the nursing program, and passed the NCLEX-RN exam. A literature review was conducted focusing on student academic recovery, and three conceptual theories that support transitional change, growth and stability: Neuman System Model (NSM), Self Determination Theory (SDT), and Schlossberg's Transitional Theory (STT). The study sample consisted of six self-identified individuals, who met the respondent criteria and replied to social-media postings and network contacts. Data were obtained through minimally guided in-depth interviews. Qualitative data analysis procedures involved use of first cycle: in vivo, emerging, provisional coding; and second cycle: axial/patterning, hypothesis coding (Saldana, J., (2013). The coding manual for qualitative researchers (2cd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage). Marginalization was experienced by the respondents and demonstrated by loss of self-confidence, fear that prevented action, self-questioning of personal worth, and reconsideration of life goals. Findings supported that marginalization resulted in academic failure, and the key incident that began the movement to success was the respondent's belief that he/she "mattered." Intrinsic motivation was associated with the development of professional competence and appeared to have the greatest effect on the maintenance and repair of lines of defense. Extrinsic motivation that was associated with family/peers led to respondent recovery and demonstrated its impact by repairing deficiencies of personal defense against the stress of marginalization. Using these findings, a student-recovery model was developed using primarily the NSM, supported by the SDT and STT, which explains progression from academic failure to recovery.

The primary intervention for recovery needs to focus on the student's recommitment to the profession of nursing. Resources need to be quickly identified to support the student's recommitment/mattering. In the case of this study, mobilization of family and social resources were critical. The study also identified issues related to the perception of nursing-faculty impact on student success and failure, including role relationships and value expectations.