Dec. 15, 2020
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Although males are underrepresented in the nursing profession, men with military backgrounds are well-suited to the rigor and challenge of attaining a nursing degree, according to research from the University of West Georgia.

Dr. Kelly Dyar

Dr. Kelly Dyar, an assistant professor in the Tanner Health System School of Nursing at UWG, said recruiting military veterans, who are predominantly male, may be one method of addressing the gender disparity in the nursing workforce.

Dyar presented her research to a broad audience earlier today as part of a segment on “The Academic Minute,” a collaborative program from WAMC public radio in Albany, New York, and the Association of American Colleges & Universities. “The Academic Minute” is a daily module featuring researchers from colleges and universities around the world, keeping listeners abreast of what’s new and exciting in the academy.

Five faculty members from UWG are “taking over” the program this week. To listen to Dyar’s segment, visit the program’s website.

Dyar knows well the challenges inherent in transitioning from military service to a higher education experience. As a military mom, she’s seen her son – a second lieutenant in the Georgia National Guard – learn the ropes of a university after serving in the armed forces.

Veterans often encounter several barriers, frustrations, and emotions experienced while attending nursing school, including complex mental health issues, perceiving classmates as lacking discipline, and a sense of isolation.

Through a qualitative research study with veterans from across the U.S., Dyar explored the lived experience of being a male combat veteran enrolled in a nursing program.

“I had several friends who returned from serving in a combat area who then tried to become a full-time student at a university,” said Dyar, explaining her inspiration to take up this particular study. “Each of them struggled to make the transition  from being a member of the military to returning home and becoming a veteran. Being a student was more difficult for them than it needed to be.”

Dyar found that veterans credit their time in the military with helping them remain focused on achieving their objective of becoming a nurse and provides them with the skills to manage the challenges in their nursing program.

“Several themes emerged in the study, including the abilities veterans gained in the military – including a sense of discipline, leadership skills, accountability and time management – that help them remain focused,” Dyar said. “I also found that there is support an institution can offer to support veterans in remaining focused on their objective, including instructor accessibility, veteran-specific campus initiatives and how their nursing program is structured.”

Dyar said that many of the published studies she found during her research indicated that veterans tend to feel isolated on campus but didn’t explain why. Through her study, Dyar identified that veterans are at a different place in their lives, felt like they didn’t fit in with other students and tended to remain separate until they felt they could trust their peers.

“Every college classroom may include veterans,” Dyar said. “Despite the challenges they face, veterans bring a wealth of knowledge, skills and experience. When teachers join them in their journey, providing support along the way, veterans can be successful.”

Alongside this research, Dyar has also conducted a study in which she and Dr. Melanie Jordan, a senior lecturer of English at UWG, paired student veterans with creative writing students. The veterans told their story through an interview, and then the writing student wrote a poem to tell their story.

Dyar and Jordan are working on the analysis of the data from this survey and plan to publish the findings once complete.

Dyar is also currently conducting a study exploring the experience of being a registered nurse caring for individuals diagnosed with COVID-19. This study is still in the recruitment and data collection phase.

For more information on “The Academic Minute,” visit their website.