Leaving Seats Empty: Exploring Student Attrition in an Undergraduate Health Sciences Program

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Gillis, Carol
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Using qualitative research methodology, this study explores reasons why students leave an undergraduate health science professional education program before completion. The study focused on the Dalhousie University Bachelor of Health Science degree program encompassing the professional streams of Diagnostic Cytology, Radiological Technology, Respiratory Therapy, Diagnostic Medical Ultrasound and Nuclear Medicine Technology. Attrition was specifically examined from the students’ perspective, explicating former students’ experiences and reasons for leaving the program. The thesis provides a review of the literature in the area of student attrition and, supported by narrative from the participants, offers a thematic analysis of the experiences and reasons former students left a health sciences program. Five themes surfaced through the interview process; these include: wrong career choice, unable to see career pathways, lack of support or connection with faculty, not ready for the demands of university, and stress. Results suggest that some students’ leaving may be preventable with sufficient preparation for their experience and effective interventions. Recommendations are made to improve student retention thus reducing student attrition in health sciences.
Health sciences , College dropouts , Halifax , Nova Scotia , Study and teaching , Medical sciences