Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Associate Degree Nurses; Academic Progression; Experiences; Predictive Variables

Major Advisor

Thomas Van Hoof

Associate Advisor

E. Carol Polifroni

Associate Advisor

Liana Orsolini

Field of Study



Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


Applying the post-positivistic framework of Thomas Kuhn, the purpose of this dissertation is to demonstrate and explore the educational advancement of associate degree nurses. Community colleges in the United States make quality and affordable higher education accessible to individuals who may not otherwise pursue it. While these institutions attract diverse and talented learners, community colleges make rewarding and life-altering careers a reality for many. For associate degree nurses, this educational opportunity serves as a strong foundation upon which to build a meaningful career. Increased emphasis on the educational advancement of associate degree nurses began with the 2010 Institute of Medicine report on the future of nursing. In order to reach the national goal recommended in the report that 80% of registered nurses be prepared at the minimum of the baccalaureate by 2020, a paradigm shift representing the acceptance of multiple pathways to the baccalaureate needs to occur. Community college faculty and leadership have consistently encouraged the educational advancement of graduates; however, pathways for associate degree nurses to advance educationally have not always been clear and achievable. This dissertation begins with a description of the experiences of associate degree nurses who have attained a baccalaureate degree, continues with an initial analysis of a database designed to track the rate and frequency of the educational advancement of associate degree nurses, and concludes with an analysis of related demographic and academic variables. Adoption of strategies presented here can assist associate degree programs to become more aware of the educational advancement of graduates. In addition, the collection and analysis of these data by associate degree programs can demonstrate their commitment to the goal of the profession to reach 80% baccalaureate preparation by 2020, while supporting the sustainability of the associate degree as an entry level to practice as a registered nurse. Increased awareness of the patterns of educational advancement by associate degree nurses can assist related programmatic planning and policy development.