Aims and objectives
To explore the experiences of commencing first‐year undergraduate nursing students who were studying full time while engaging in 20 or more hours of paid work each week.
Using a qualitative exploratory design, commencing full‐time nursing students who were employed in paid work for at least 20 hr per week were interviewed between May–June 2016. Data were thematically analysed using the following approach: data familiarisation, generating initial codes independently, searching and reviewing themes and subthemes, and defining and naming these themes and subthemes.
Four main themes were identified which illustrated students' experiences of working and studying: (a) “Work is a necessity…not a choice” identified how students relied heavily on the financial income from paid work to support themselves and others during their studies, (b) “Something's got to give” highlighted the sacrifices that needed to be made to avoid negative effects on their studies, (c) “It's a balancing act!” demonstrated how students studied strategically and balanced their workload despite challenges, and lastly (d) “Being supported to work and study” described the overwhelming support from others for students to succeed academically.
Despite support, working 20 hr or more per week while studying full time often overwhelmed students' personal resources and negatively impacted on course grades. Inflexible University timetables compounded the challenges experienced by students who struggled to balance work and study commitments.
Relevance to clinical practice
Nursing employers play a pivotal role in enabling students to juggle effectively their work‐study commitments, through providing work flexibility. Students may also benefit if the nursing workforce advocates that they be awarded exclusion from selected clinical placement requirements, particularly if the clinical placement focus is closely related to their current nursing employment.