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Preferred Resiliency-Building Strategies of Nursing Students


  • Dr. Ashley Carter, Assistant Professor of Nursing
  • Dr. Susan Seibert, Instructor in Nursing
  • Shellye Davis, Instructor in Nursing
  • Amy Pierce, Instructor in Nursing
  • April Fehlinger, Instructor in Nursing

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, large numbers of nurses are retiring or leaving the profession. This national workforce decline is often attributed to the challenges encountered during the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to staffing issues, stress, burnout and concerns for nurses’ overall mental health.

Because resilience involves adapting to and overcoming stressful life circumstances, several faculty members in the USI Nursing program have been researching ways for students to build resilience from the start of their nursing education. The results of their study were recently published in the journal Teaching and Learning in Nursing (online July 13, 2023). Dr. Ashley Carter, Assistant Professor of Nursing; Dr. Susan Seibert, Instructor in Nursing; Shellye Davis, Instructor in Nursing; Amy Pierce, Instructor in Nursing; and April Fehlinger, Instructor in Nursing, are the authors of the article, “Preferred Resiliency-Building Strategies of Nursing Students,” which they hope will inspire other nursing programs to incorporate similar tactics.

“Resilience was a hot topic in nursing even before the pandemic,” said Seibert. “Prior to COVID-19, Dr. Ann White, Dean Emeritus, spearheaded a regional healthcare research consortium that conducted a multisite assessment of resilience among practicing nurses and nursing students.” She added that the results of those studies were published in The Journal of Nursing Administration (2021) and Nurse Educator (2022).

The basis of the current study began when Davis created an assignment in 2021 to help new nursing students build resilience. “That semester, at the height of COVID, we had to shift the seminar for that course into an online format,” said Carter, lead investigator on the study. “This was a challenging time for students, as it altered their learning environment, and for faculty as we navigated uncharted waters. Focusing on the concept of resiliency was perfect for the situation.”

Carter added students learned that resiliency is the ability to bounce back when faced with challenges. “At the end of the semester, I was overwhelmed by the cohort’s response to this activity,” she said. “Their reflections were so insightful. We felt like this activity needed to be disseminated because we knew that our students and faculty were not alone in facing these challenges the pandemic posed. This was a global problem. We needed to help nursing students build their resiliency to get through a tough curriculum, learn how to become professional nurses, and recognize how these skills would help them move forward in their personal and professional lives.”

Carter explained that as they worked on this study, another project evolved to measure nursing students’ grit. “Grit is often described as the passion and perseverance to push through challenges to achieve a long-term goal,” she said. “Dr. Jennifer Evans (Assistant Dean of the College of Nursing and Health Professions), Dr. Connie Swenty (former Interim Dean of CNHP), Dr. Susan Seibert and I are discovering how ‘gritty’ new nursing students are and how this impacts their success. We are currently evaluating grit scores for several USI Nursing cohorts.”

The Nursing faculty are also incorporating “growth mindset training” to the new nursing students’ curriculum as a means of increasing their grit scores and, ultimately, provide another way to increase student success. “Growth mindset has been researched for several years and revolves around the idea that with hard work and persistence, knowledge and skills can be improved with effort,” said Carter. “I developed several activities to help students develop a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset. We received a lot of positive feedback from our nursing students about these activities.”

Carter added the resiliency and growth mindset activities would be appropriate for all health professions programs at USI. “My hope, moving forward, is that resiliency training is woven into our curriculum and that students have several opportunities to build their resiliency, develop a growth mindset and get gritty! These attributes will help them to navigate challenges as they enter the healthcare arena.”


  • Nursing students must engage in resiliency-building activities to promote success in nursing school and prevent work-related stress as a future nurse.
  • The findings of this study inform educators of student-preferred strategies and their intentions to continue to build their resiliency.
  • The Student Nurse Resiliency Project is an innovative, competency-based, active-learning strategy that fosters student resiliency development.