Are you currently in school with the goal of earning a PhD or DNP degree? If the answer is yes, there’s a good chance you see yourself headed for a faculty position as a nurse educator in academia.
Until the very recent past, PhDs filled the majority of faculty positions. However, DNPs are now frequently entering academics to fill faculty positions, and the crossover of expectations and tasks are creating increasingly blurry lines between the roles of PhDs and DNPs. After all, in both roles, there are usually teaching, scholarship, and service expectations. With only a superficial view, it’s almost impossible to detect what the differences might be.
Because specific faculty roles are often determined by institutional leadership and policies, and are not consistent across the United States, you should consider yourself an investigative reporter and ask the right questions wherever your job search takes you. Knowing the right questions to ask before accepting a job offer is essential in order to avoid unpleasant surprises after being hired!
The following questions will help you get a better understanding of the faculty role you may be applying for.
1. What type of appointment will I be eligible for?
A tenure track appointment vs. a clinical track appointment has important implications for your workload and how you will be expected to structure your time. Tenure-track appointments usually have research expectations built into them (along with teaching), and are generally reserved for research-focused PhD faculty. However, these appointments are now available at some institutions for clinically-focused DNP faculty.
Clinical appointments usually carry a primary teaching responsibility, and are generally reserved for clinically-focused DNPs. But, frequently, PhD faculty may also find themselves in clinical track positions.
As if that is not confusing enough, an academic appointment may be either 9 months or 12 months, which has critical implications for ongoing finances and health insurance coverage. With a nine-month appointment, you may not be guaranteed a full workload (or full paycheck!) each summer. Definitely a critical point to know ahead of time.
2. Where do new faculty learn the educator role?
New faculty need guidance from more experienced faculty colleagues, and you should not be expected to go it alone. Without a background in teaching strategies, evaluation of learning outcomes, or the general culture of academia, the first year of teaching is full of unknowns and not easily tackled without an experienced guide. Being part of a teaching team that includes more experienced colleagues is ideal. Additionally, you should also have access to professional development opportunities as an educator through institutional resources and educator conferences.
3. When do faculty in my position assume active roles on committees at the department and university level?
While committees are an integral part of faculty life, too many committees can easily distract from other commitments. Setting up new courses, developing a scholarly trajectory, and adjusting to academia in general is time and energy intensive. Being pulled into intense service commitments can easily distract from those, and if possible, administrators may shield new faculty while they are adapting to their new role.
4. How will I be evaluated on the expectations related to teaching, scholarship, and service?
Since this may determine eligibility for merit increases or promotions, you’ll definitely want to ask this!
By clarifying the type of appointment you are eligible for, resources available to you, and the institution-specific expectations for evaluating your performance, you’ll be better prepared to face the exciting challenges and opportunities that await you in your new position.
Acknowledgement: Faculty colleagues Ms. Mercedes Martinez, Dr. Kathleen Cox, and Dr. Karim Singh.
Tanya Sudia, PhD, RN, Professor, Associate Dean for Research and Scholarship, and Interim Graduate Program Director for the Louise Herrington School of Nursing at Baylor University received an award for the Best Oral Presentation at the Sixth Annual Pan-Pacific Nursing Conference and First Colloquium on Chronic Illness Care in Hong Kong. Her presentation, “Ethical Considerations Amid Emerging Global Health Challenges,” examined global ethical issues faced by healthcare providers. Global issues include standards of conduct for research, disparities in diagnosis and treatment of disease internationally, preparedness for pandemics, and gerontological care provisions. Sudia’s study had a particular focus on the spread and treatment of non-communicable diseases in areas where they were not previously prevalent, like low-middle income countries.
Sudia knows how important the development of creative and cost-effective strategies is with the global health care workforce facing many ongoing challenges. She also addresses key issues specific to the nursing profession including education and advanced training to ensure adequate nurse workforce capacity, rapid means of preparing for critical circumstances, workplace safety, and improving overall working conditions for nurses. Baylor University is proud of the international recognition in nursing and research that Dr. Sudia is bringing to their institution and school of nursing. Dr. Sudia brings distinguished knowledge in collaborative interdisciplinary research in health care to the staff and students of the Louise Herrington School of Nursing.
The Pan-Pacific Nursing Conference is hosted by the Nethersole School of Nursing at the Chinese University of Hong Kong which was first established in 1999. The conference aims to serve as a platform where health care professionals from around the globe can come together to share ideas and promote global health. The theme for this year’s conference was “Achieving transformational and sustainable development in health and social care.”
Dr. Sudia plans to continue her research on ethical challenges in the health care field, focusing on exploring global impact and culturally respectful health care approaches. Her work has been published in nursing journals as well as in contributing chapters to several books. She is also an advocate for expanding engagement and leadership of nursing professionals to address ethical challenges in the healthcare industry. As renowned front-line care providers, nurses need to be prepared and empowered leaders in preventive care and engaged interprofessional partners in identifying and resolving ethical issues.
Newly appointed inaugural Linda Koch Lorimer Professor of Nursing, Ann Kurth, is the dean of the Yale School of Nursing and an expert on global health. Kurth is a clinically trained epidemiologist whose research focuses on how to improve prevention, detection, and care of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. Her work to promote reproductive health and strengthen global health systems through information and communication technologies has been funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, UNAIDS, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the US Health and Resources Administration.
Kurth’s educational background comes from an undergraduate degree at Princeton, an MPH in population and family health from Columbia, a master’s in nursing with a specialization in midwifery from Yale, and a PhD in epidemiology from the University of Washington. Her academic career began as the Paulette Goddard Professor of Global Health Nursing at New York University (NYU). She also founded and served as executive director of NYUCN Global in the NYU College of Nursing, a research and implementation program for improving health and well-being for individuals, families, and communities nationally as well as globally. Kurth now serves as adjunct professor of nursing and public health at NYU, and adjunct professor and dean of the Yale School of Public Health and the Yale School of Nursing, respectively.
The Yale professor also has an impressive academic literary background with over 160 published peer-reviewed articles, book chapters, and scholarly monographs. She is also a regular reviewer for public health, medical, and nursing journals. One of Kurth’s highest achievements was editing one of the first books published on women and HIV, “Until the Cure.” Kurth has also consulted for the NIH, the Gates Foundation, the World Health Organization, and the CDC, as well as served as a member of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and National Academy of Science Committee on PEPFAR Evaluation where she led a Health System Strengthening workgroup.
Kurth has been honored on multiple occasions for her leadership and contributions to science. Most notably, she was awarded the International Nurse Research Hall of Fame award from Sigma Theta Tau International, a global nursing honor society. She is vice chair for the Consortium of Universities in Global Health, and a fellow of the American Academy of Nursing and the New York Academy of Medicine. Currently, Kurth is a member of the 2014-2018 US Preventive Services Task Force, a program to set screening guidelines for primary care in the US.
Yale created the Linda Koch Lorimer Professorship to honor a distinguished faculty member in any field, “who is an exemplary citizen of the university, and who embodies the attributes and character demonstrated by Linda Koch Lorimer, including her commitment to a legacy of women at Yale.” Lorimer served Yale for over 30 years as a vice president and secretary, overseeing numerous transformative initiatives, including the creation of the Office of International Affairs, the Office of New Haven and State Affairs, and the Office of Digital Dissemination and Online Education.
Congratulations to Ann Kurth, our Nurse of the Week.
Kathryn H. Bowles, PhD, RN, FAAN, FACMI, has been appointed as a new member to the National Advisory Council for Nursing Research (NACNR). Bowles is the van Ameringen Professor in Nursing Excellence and Professor of Nursing in the Department of Biobehavioral Health Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing (Penn Nursing). The NACNR chooses members of the council from the scientific and lay communities who embody diverse perspectives in the field of nursing, public and health policy, law, and economics.
NACNR is the National Institute of Nursing Research’s (NINR) principal advisory board, which meets three times a year on the National Institutes of Health campus to make recommendations and provide support on the direction of research that forms the evidence base for nursing practice. The council conducts second level reviews of grant applications that have been scored by scientific review groups, and reviews the institute’s extramural programs to make recommendations about its intramural research activities.
Bowles brings over 20 years of experience conducting and evaluating multidisciplinary research to the table. She looks forward to supporting cutting edge research and NINR priorities to advance the health and treatment of patients and their caregivers. Her personal research examines decision-making supported by information technology to improve older adult care. Most recently her studies included a focus on development of decision support to determine best site of care for patients in need of post-acute care. Her other areas of research include telehealth technology, home care, and evaluation of electronic health records. Bowles was also a co-founder of RightCare Solutions, a software company based on NINR funded research to provide an end to end solution for discharge planning and post-acute care referrals.
Judy Didion was recently selected to take place as the new dean in the school of nursing at Oakland University. She is the current dean and professor of the College of Nursing at Lourdes University in Sylvania, Ohio. After eight years in her position she looks forward to the opportunity to serve as dean at a larger university.
Didion will be bringing over 40 years of experience to Oakland University. Prior to her position at Lourdes University, she held positions at the Medical College of Ohio (now Bowling Green State University), Farleigh Dickenson University, the University of Texas Health Science Center, and Owens Technical College. She holds a bachelor of science in nursing from the University of Toledo, a master of science in nursing with a clinical nurse specialist and administration specialty from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, and a PhD in nursing from Duquesne University.
Looking forward to working with Oakland’s great nursing program and well-qualified faculty, Didion hopes to focus on bringing a sense of community engagement to Oakland’s larger campus. She hopes to expand her influence and work on new initiatives that a small school wouldn’t typically be involved in. Oakland’s goals for Didion include increasing the program’s visibility and increasing diversity in the nursing workforce. There is room for all programs in how they build nursing education and improve health care, so it’s all about working together, not competing against each other.
Didion will begin her new position at Oakland University on July 25.
Nurses make up the largest sector of the health care system with over 3.1 million RNs nationwide. Even with this astounding number, the nursing field is still in jeopardy of not being adequate enough to care for the aging population. The number of nurse educators has dwindled, and in turn, less people who desire to become nurses are able to enter nursing programs.
The key to alleviating the shortage lies not only in the number of qualified nursing applicants, but in the number of nursing faculty available—without quality educators, nursing will not survive the shortage. “Nursing education is the leader of the nursing profession as a whole because it all has to start with education,” says Nicole Thomas, MSN, CCM, LNC, an adjunct instructor at Virginia College in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. “If nurses and other health care professionals are not properly educated then our industry will not thrive,” she adds.
In August 2010, the National Advisory Council on Nurse Education and Practice (NACNEP) issued a report to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Congress titled The Impact of the Nursing Faculty Shortage on Nurse Education and Practice, which outlines the nursing faculty shortage. The NACNEP report addressed 4 key challenges to the educator profession:
1. Recruitment challenges, including:
- Difficulties in attracting and retaining qualified nurse faculty
- Challenges in achieving demographic diversity within nursing facult
- A general lack of awareness on the part of the public and among nurses that the faculty role is a viable career option
2. Problems in providing adequate nurse educational preparation specific to teaching
3. Obstacles to sustaining and funding nurse faculty programs
4. The aging and imminent retirement of current nurse faculty
As a direct result of the nursing faculty shortage, as recent as 2014, 31% of all BSN qualified applicants, 37% of ADN qualified applicants, and 27% of PN qualified applicants were turned away, according to the National League for Nursing’s Annual Survey of Schools of Nursing Academic Year 2013-2014. Nurses who want to continue their education and pursue a higher degree have also been affected by the shortage. In 2014, 22% of qualified MSN applicants and 16% of qualified doctorate applicants were rejected.
The large number of nurses pursuing higher education being turned away not only affects the general nursing population, but also those who wish to pursue a nurse educator role in the future. Decreasing acceptance rates at the master’s level is in part exacerbated by increased competition and the fact that one in four MSN programs has highly selective requirements for admission. Trends like these help perpetuate a continual cycle of not having enough nursing graduates to take on nurse educator roles in schools of nursing.
Another issue facing nurse educators is that the current nurse educator population is aging, and therefore, not enough newer educators are able to fill the gap. This is in part because of a general lack of awareness of the profession as an option to nurses. More awareness to this specialty in nursing needs to be made. Surprisingly, a nurse does not need to major in education specifically to become an educator; a nurse can become an educator with either a master’s or doctorate degree.
Rebecca Harris-Smith, EdD, MSN, BA, an assistant dean and interim director of an entry level master’s program, has her own take on nurses who want to move into academia: “Many nurses and nurse practitioners move into education with little to no training in education; I would require that nurse educators spend time learning the art of education. Let us not forget the need to ensure that we are expert facilitators of the teaching/learning process.”
For the Love of Teaching
Stark salary discrepancies between clinical nurses and nurse educators may discourage many from pursuing academia. Some nurses may not be drawn to academia simply because of the pay. Salaries of nurse educators are notably lower than those in similarly ranked faculty across education according to The NLN Faculty Census. Salaries at the professor rank averaged nearly 45% less than those teaching in non-nursing fields. Harris-Smith, who teaches at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in the Mervyn M. Dymally School of Nursing, acknowledges the pay discrepancy: “Nurse educators prepare future nurses and often watch graduates’ salaries increase beyond the educators’ salary within a few years, so if money is your motivation then you are not prepared for academia.”
Neither Thomas nor Harris-Smith are motivated by money and both enjoy teaching. Thomas always knew she wanted to be a teacher: “I am a teacher at heart. I would spend countless hours as a floor nurse educating my patients and their families because I think it’s important to empower them with the knowledge that they need to take care of themselves beyond an inpatient setting—the hospital is just a interim fix, but if they are equipped with the knowledge that they need then they can properly manage their health.”
Harris-Smith’s path to academia was slightly different, with her mother urging her to pursue nursing at her reluctance. “My mother wanted me to be a nurse, and at first, I was not open to the idea,” she says. Even after pursuing a degree in education, Harris-Smith didn’t put it to use until years later. “I put that degree (education) on the shelf for many years, but as I matured, I could not shake the desire to work with students. One day I finally realized that it was my destiny to become a nursing educator.”
Nurse education is changing with technology taking the forefront. Technology is expanding with online classes, patient simulators, and other tools that make education more accessible when it otherwise wouldn’t be. “Nurse educators and students must be open to the use of technology because it is here to stay,” notes Harris-Smith. “The use of human patient simulators when clinical sites are unavailable is a major help for schools of nursing, and the use of technology in the classrooms invaluable when it comes to engaging students.” Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) have also played a large role in nursing education over the years, with students learning new charting systems during clinical rotations.
The face of nursing is becoming more dynamic in nature as well, which poses other necessary alterations to nursing education. Nursing as a whole has become more diverse and nurse educators must adapt to this change. “The influx of intergenerational, multicultural students that are currently in the class requires the nurse educator to facilitate the learning needs of a very diverse population of students,” says Harris-Smith.
Nurse educators must continuously stay abreast of nursing issues and trends to keep up with the ever-changing nature of the field. Nursing as a whole can and will improve with active recruitment of this underrepresented specialty. Those who choose to pursue academia hold a special role in the profession, because without them, nurses wouldn’t exist. When asked of the most notable change she has seen in education, Thomas adds: “The biggest change I have seen is an increased rigorous curriculum for nurses and other health professionals, which I think is good.” Thomas’ statement reflects what nurses already knew—nurse educators are doing their job well; we just need more of them.