Master's Theses



Degree Name

Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)


Nurse educators are interested in helping students be successful in nursing programs and retaining students in nursing programs. One way to help retain nursing students may be to better understand the stress students experience and assess if stress has an impact on being successful on nursing exams. The purpose of this investigation was to identify stress levels of practical nursing students and explore possible relationships between level of stress and scores on the first nursing exam of the nursing program. Also the investigation examined differences in stress levels between traditional and nontraditional students. The Cognitive Appraisal of Stress theory by Lazarus and Folkman (1984) was used as the theoretical base for this investigation. The theory of Modeling and Role Modeling by Erickson, Tomlin, and Swain (1983) was also used to guide this investigation. The sample for this investigation was a convenience sample consisting of 29 practical nursing students enrolled in and attending a technical college in a mid-western community during the 2001 fall semester. Their stress levels were assessed using the Hassles Assessment Scale for Students in College by Sarafino and Ewing (1999). The findings of the investigation indicated that those students receiving a passing score on the first nursing exam of the nursing program had a slightly higher mean stress level (M=276.28, SD =77.45) than those students who failed the nursing exam (M =262, SD = 86.71). However, analysis using a t -test revealed no significant difference in stress levels between students passing or failing the first nursing exam of the nursing program (t = -.43, p = .67). Findings of the investigation also revealed the level of stress for traditional students had a mean of 264.3 1 with a standard deviation of 81.75. The level of stress for nontraditional students was slightly higher with a mean of 278.88 and a standard deviation of 78.34. Analysis using a t-test showed no significant difference between traditional and nontraditional students' stress level scores (t = -.49), p=.63). These findings suggest that stress may not play as much of a role in students' performance on a nursing exam as students and faculty may commonly believe to be the case. Nurse educators need to assess their students individually to identify other factors, such as coping resources, motivation, time management skills, study habits, support systems, roles, and responsibilities that may impact whether students will pass or fail a nursing exam.


Eileen Deges Curl

Date of Award

Fall 2001

Document Type

Thesis - campus only access


© 2001 Michele Unrein


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