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The Meaning of Grades

Stories of Undergraduate, Master's, and Doctoral Nursing Students

Poorman, Susan G. PhD, RN, CNS-BC, ANEF; Mastorovich, Melissa L. DNP, RN, BC

doi: 10.1097/NNE.0000000000000627
Feature Articles

Background Although the literature is replete with information about grades, there is a lack of empirical evidence about the meaning of grades to nursing students.

Purpose This study sought to understand the meaning of grades for nursing students at all educational levels.

Method Using Heideggerian hermeneutic phenomenology, 46 nursing students from 14 schools were asked to tell about a time that stood out to them when they were graded. They then reflected on their story and described what this experience meant to them.

Results Data analysis revealed several themes. The main theme was “needing an A.” It was discussed by students at every level of nursing education.

Conclusions Students not only needed to get an A, but also they needed to get an A in every course they took, causing stress and disappointment when they were unable to achieve these grades. It seemed that what they were learning was not as important as the grade they received.

Author affiliations: Professor Emeritus (Dr Poorman), Nursing and Allied Health Department, Indiana University of Pennsylvania; President (Dr Poorman); Senior Clinician (Dr Mastorovich), STAT Nursing Consultants, Inc, Trafford, Pennsylvania.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

A previous version of this study was presented at the 2018 Nursing Education Research Conference sponsored by Sigma Theta Tau and the National League for Nursing.

Correspondence: Dr Poorman, STAT Nursing Consultants, Inc, 6196 Antler Hill Dr, Trafford, PA 15085 (;

Accepted for publication: September 15, 2018

Published ahead of print: November 1, 2018

Online date: November 5, 2018

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