Heather Zonts

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Nursing and Allied Health Professions

First Advisor

Teresa C. Shellenbarger

Second Advisor

Theresa M. Gropelli

Third Advisor

Pamela O'Harra

Fourth Advisor

Cory Shay


With the current education benefits offered to military personnel, student veterans entering higher education is projected to increase. This student population has unique needs because of combat exposure associated with military experiences. Therefore, to enhance the success of this growing population, educators need to understand factors that impact student veterans in higher education. To meet the needs of this group, government entities such as the Health Resources and Services (HRSA) administration are providing funding to create learning environments that retain student veterans in higher education and more specifically nursing. With the implementation of these programs, it is imperative that nurse educators identify what resources are beneficial for student veterans.

The research question for this phenomenological study was “What is the lived experience of student veterans enrolled in nursing programs at institutions identified as supporting military including both HRSA grant funded Nursing Education, Practice, Quality and Retention: Veterans’ Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing programs and/or nursing programs located in institutions designated as Military Friendly®?” The study sample consisted of 11 study participants from five different baccalaureate in nursing degree granting institutions located in the eastern United States. Each institution either received HRSA grant funding through Nurse Education, Practice, Quality and Retention (NEPQR) Program focused on Veteran’s Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing and/or were identified as Military Friendly®. Transcripts from the semi-structured interviews were analyzed using Colazzi’s method. Using Whittemore, Chase, and Mandle’s framework, rigor was maintained throughout the research process.

The resultant themes included acclimating to the college culture, shift in the thinking paradigm, using resources to facilitate progress, reestablishing a sense of community, expression of leadership attributes, and determined to succeed.

The results from this research study describe the student veteran experience and are helpful in guiding nursing education for these students. These results may assist administrators and nurse educators with the development of programs and initiatives aimed at increasing faculty awareness, resources to enhance student veteran retention, and the creation of support networks for student veterans. Further research is needed regarding the experiences of student veterans in nursing programs. Recommendations are provided regarding research, funding, and policy.

Available for download on Monday, June 03, 2019