Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Dr. Elizabeth Tyree


The numbers of students with learning disabilities (LD) in post-secondary education settings is rising (National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), 2016). The Americans with Disabilities Act, Amendments Act was passed in 2008, since that time little research has been done to reflect any impact of the original ADA (1990) being amended. Research is needed about the experiences of students with learning disabilities in higher education, and more specifically nursing education. The purpose of this study was to develop an understanding of the lived experience of nursing education from the perspective of students with learning disabilities, and delineate the essence of the phenomenon.

This descriptive phenomenological study was guided by the methods of reflective lifeworld research (Dahlberg, Drew & Nystrom, 2001; Dahlberg, Dahlberg & Nystrom, 2008). Specific aims of the study were to describe 1) through the experiences of students with learning disabilities, how having a learning disability is part of their nursing education experience, 2) to describe factors which help them succeed and progress in their nursing education programs, and 3) to describe factors which have made success and progression difficult in their nursing education programs.

Nine student nurses with learning disabilities who either self-identify as having a learning disability, or have a diagnosis of a learning disability participated in the study. Data was collected through semi-structured interviews of all participants to learn about their experiences of nursing school. The essence of the phenomenon of nursing school, as experienced by students with learning disabilities, was “developing adaptive pathways on the way to becoming a good nurse.” The essence of the phenomenon displayed itself through three constituents, 1) identify as having a learning disability, 2) “just another hump to get over,” and 3) use of accommodations.

The findings from this study are significant for both students with learning disabilities and educators of nursing. Students with learning disabilities described their experiences of nursing school, what factors were important to their success, and what made success difficult. The findings of this study can also be used to inform nursing practice, policy, and future research in the area of nursing students with learning disabilities.

Included in

Nursing Commons