1. Bradshaw, Martha J. PhD, RN
  2. Salzer, Judith Schurr MS, MBA, RN


Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in college-age students presents a complex challenge of coping with academic coursework, refining life skills, and addressing self-limitations. Behaviors that characterize ADHD are particularly problematic for nursing students, especially when the student has difficulty with behaviors that exemplify executive functioning. The authors discuss symptoms and treatments associated with the diagnosis of ADHD and evaluation and interventions for college students, based on guidelines from the Americans With Disabilities Act. Nursing faculty can facilitate academic success by recognizing the problem in nursing students and implementing strategies useful for self-management of ADHD.


"Wow! Look at that!" the nursing student exclaimed upon seeing her postpartum patient's large hemorrhoids. The student was immediately escorted from the patient's room by her instructor and she received a severe reprimand for making inappropriate, unprofessional comments in front of a patient. How could she be so insensitive and impulsive? Comments such as these and other unpredictable, unreliable behaviors placed this student in jeopardy of failing her clinical rotation.


In a follow-up counseling session, the student revealed that she had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Although she was in good academic standing in her course work, her behavior pattern made her appear weak and "not bright." Her written work was sloppy and unorganized; she needed the maximum amount of time allowed for a paper-and-pencil test; would interrupt others speaking in class; or would lay her head down on her desk when bored. At age 21, the student continued to receive prescribed Ritalin, but she didn't like to take it: "It's not who I am when I'm on Ritalin. I'm not me. "


This true scenario typifies the efforts of college-age students who have struggled through their academic lives with a unique, but not rare, disorder.