Background: Reducing avoidable nursing student attrition is an international challenge. A pattern of falling attendance is recognised as a frequent precursor to withdrawal from nursing programmes. To address concerns regarding nursing student attrition, the Scottish Government implemented a pilot project for a centralised Computerised Absence Management and Monitoring System (CAMMS). The CAMMS adopted an 'assertive outreach' approach, contacting students every two weeks via colour coded letters to tell them whether their attendance was 'excellent', 'good, but potentially causing concern'; or 'warning; attendance concerns/contact academic staff for support'. This article reports key findings from an evaluation of CAMMS. Objectives: To explore the perceived impact of CAMMS on student support and attrition, from the perspectives of academic and administrative staff and students. Design: Mixed methods evaluation design. Settings: Three large geographically dispersed Schools of Nursing in Scotland. Participants: 83 students; 20 academic staff; and 3 lead administrators. Methods: On-line cohort survey of academic staff and students; structured interviews with lead administrators. Results: Findings reflected a spectrum of negative and positive views of CAMMS. Students who are attending regularly seem pleased that their commitment is recognised. Lecturers who teach larger groups report greater difficulty getting to know students individually and acknowledge the benefit of identifying potential attendance concerns at an early stage. Conversely, some students who received a 'warning' letter were frequently annoyed or irritated, rather than feeling supported. Increased staff workload resulted in negative perceptions and a consequent reluctance to use CAMMS. However, students who were causing concern reported subsequent improvement in attendance. Conclusions: CAMMS has the potential to identify 'at-risk' students at an early stage however, the system should have flexibility to tailor automatically generated letters in response to individual circumstances, to avoid student frustration. Further research on the longer term impact of CAMMS on attrition rates is warranted. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.
- Absence management
- Student retention