Paper Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Brooks College of Health

Degree Name

Doctor of Clinical Nutrition (DCN)


Nutrition & Dietetics

NACO controlled Corporate Body

University of North Florida. Department of Nutrition & Dietetics

First Advisor

Dr. Lauri Wright

Second Advisor

Dr. Andrea Arikawa

Third Advisor

Dr. Michele S. Bednarzyk


Advanced-Practice Doctoral (APD) students are working professionals who are often returning to school after several years of practice. Multiple areas and concerns may affect overall experience as well as retention rates in doctoral programs.

This mixed-methods research study utilized both qualitative (interview) and quantitative (survey) methods. Students from three different APD programs (Doctorate in Clinical Nutrition, Doctor of Education, and Doctor of Nursing) were asked to participate in a semi-structured interview. The interview was used to help guide the development of a survey. Students from the three groups (n=65) were asked to participate in a one-time, non-incentivized, survey. The survey questions were used to gain perspective regarding perceptions and information on the overall experience of the APD student that may have an impact on retention.

The qualitative portion of this study revealed that support from faculty, family, and cohort members was important to student success. Finances and time were the biggest barriers to students while enrolled in the program. The quantitative survey was completed after the qualitative interview. Students indicated that faculty, peers/cohort members, and family were the most supportive during their APD program. When looking at the association between APD experience and various factors, Educational Support and Understanding, Program Director/Committee Chair, Resilience, and Self-efficacy had strong, positive associations that were significant.

The contribution of this study was to shed light on overlooked and potentially important factors associated with the overall experience in APD programs, such as those experiences that lead to completion or dropout, and then to consider how those predictors may be interrelated. The results indicate the responsibilities doctoral students have, goals they are pursuing, social factors, changes in identity, other people the doctoral students are interacting with, and interactions with people that can impact their overall experience, such as supervisors, peers, or even employers, should all be considered together.