Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ded)


Professional Studies in Education

First Advisor

Frank Corbett, Jr., Ed.D.

Second Advisor

Kelli R, Paquette, Ed.D.

Third Advisor

James D. Hooks, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Mary E. Williams, Ph.D.


The problem of this study was to examine Associate Degree non-traditional students’ perceptions of their ability to form caring relationships upon entry to the nursing program and, to determine if those perceptions change as the student progresses through the nursing curriculum. Measures of association, such as participants’ former career and perceived ability to form a caring relationship were completed. The Caring Ability Inventory (CAI) developed by Nkongho (1990) was administered to a cross-section sample of non-traditional nursing students (N = 24) in two Associate Degree Nursing Programs. Face-to-face interviews followed with the same participants using open-ended questions derived from the questions and results of the CAI. Data were divided into Level I, those students just entering the nursing program and Level II, those students who were finishing the program or had just graduated. The findings of this study provide evidence that students’ caring ability as measured by the total CAI scores, although not statistically different from Nkongho’s (1990) original study, decreased from Level I to Level II. For the subscales of Knowing and Patience there were no statistical differences. However, scores for the subscale of Courage decreased. This suggests that the individual subscales be considered as a focus for faculty to provide appropriate educational intervention that facilitates caring ability. Analysis of qualitative data derived from interviews and a brief written paragraph revealed strong overall perceptions of caring ability existed in this sample of non-traditional students. There was a difference for three students between the CAI and qualitative data. Learning how non-traditional students perceive their ability to form caring relationships can help nursing educators address pedagogy and provide opportunities for students to practice the development of caring relationships throughout the nursing program. The findings from this study have implications for nursing educators to help all students as well as practicing nurses reach an efficacious level of caring with patients.