New Student Success Champions initiative provides support to nursing students

The new School of Nursing initiative connects students with resources and mentors who develop a personalized plan to identify students’ challenges and help develop pathways to success.
Written by: Erica Techo
Media contact: Hannah Echols

NSSC StreamTo support nursing workforce development during the critical nursing shortage and ensure that prelicensure students have the resources they need to stay on the path to graduation, the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing has developed a new Student Success Champions initiative.

The initiative connects traditional Bachelor of Science in nursing students and Accelerated Masters in Nursing Pathway students who may be facing academic challenges to resources within the school and across campus to provide the support they need to be successful. They are also connected with a Student Success Champion, a faculty member who can develop a personalized plan that not only identifies students’ challenges but also helps develop a pathway to success.

“We thought about what we could do to ensure students are successful in their first and second semesters, when they are most vulnerable to academic and other challenges,” said Gwendolyn Childs, Ph.D., associate professor and associate dean for Undergraduate and Prelicensure Education. “Student Success Champions provide us an opportunity to identify early barriers to academic success — is it the transition to nursing school, time management, test taking skills or working in addition to school? Once we identify those students who are facing challenges, then we can either offer school support or connect them to campus resources.”

This support ranges from reaching out to students after early signs of academic challenges, such as a test grade that puts them at academic risk, to identifying ways to help students be even more successful. A new online course offered by the school free to all students provides access to resources such as scholarship opportunities, counseling, resiliency training and more.

It also enables the school to keep students on track in their nursing coursework, helping them enter the field and meet workforce needs in a critical nursing shortage.

“The nursing shortage certainly is not new, but the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a wider conversation,” said April Love, R.N, instructor and Student Success Champion. “COVID gave us a need that was more defined. We heard students emphasize that they are more than just a GPA and want success inside and outside of the classroom. It also encouraged us to create a new approach that is sustainable for our students and our program. These students have made a lot of sacrifices to get where they are, so getting to the end of their program in a timely fashion is important.”

The program has already seen encouraging results. Since it launched with Bachelor of Science in nursing students in the fall 2021 semester, the number of students who had to repeat a course in their first or second semester was cut in half. The Student Success Champions program expanded to include the Accelerated Masters in Nursing Pathway during the spring 2022 semester.

The strength of the Student Success Champions comes from the understanding that all students face unique challenges and have different needs, Childs says. Ultimately, this program is one step in a continual conversation.

“This program is one way we can address the magnitude of what is needed, not just from an academic but also from a psychosocial perspective. It allows us to take a step back and look at how we engage with students and how we focus on the tools they need,” Childs said. “From here, we can address ways to further incorporate the new American Association of Colleges of Nursing Essentials, continuing to help our students become more resilient and more strategic as they navigate this education system and their careers.”