Abstract and Introduction
The national dialogue about the expanding nurse faculty shortage has piqued the interest of many nurses in practice and motivated them to pursue a teaching role. Thought eager to share their clinical expertise as nurse educators, many of them have questions about what is required to transition from the clinical practice setting to the academic environment, even on a part-time basis. This article provides practical advice on how to find teaching opportunities in higher education and make the role transition successfully. The authors address types of faculty appointments, educational qualifications needed for teaching, considerations in taking a faculty position, beginning a faculty position and learning about the academic work environment, and faculty development opportunities. They conclude by paying special attention to the essential skills needed to become a nurse educator and flourish in a teaching role.
Though workforce analysts identify many reasons for the current shortage of registered nurses (RNs), there is growing consensus that the primary reason for this escalating crisis in the United States (US) is a diminishing pool of nurse faculty. Most agree that a rapidly aging RN workforce, the increasing demand for care, and an insufficient pipeline of nurses with master's and doctoral degrees are all contributors to the U.S. nursing shortage which is expected to last at least through the year 2025 (Buerhaus, Staiger, & Auerbach, 2008). The primary concern for stakeholders seeking solutions to the shortage is the pressing need to prepare more nurse educatorsto enable schools of nursing to expand capacity and accommodate all those seeking a nursing career. For each of the past three years, more than 40,000 qualified applicants to baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs have been turned away from nursing schools due primarily to a shortage of faculty (American Association of Colleges of Nursing [AACN], 2008a).
The AACN has worked to draw attention to the nurse faculty shortage and advance possible solutions. In a white paper originally released in 2003, a task force of AACN members identified a number of factors contributing to the shortfall in the number of nurse educators needed. These factors included faculty retirement patterns, significant salary differentials between academia and practice, competition for nurses with graduate degrees, flat enrollment and graduation rates in advanced nursing programs, and an aging professoriate (AACN, 2005). AACN's data collection efforts also have helped to quantify this issue. The nation's senior colleges and universities are now facing a faculty vacancy rate of 8.8 percent with 88.3 percent of professional nursing programs identifying the need for more faculty (AACN, 2007).
With a clearer understanding of the root cause, initiatives to address the nursing shortage at the federal, state, and local levels have been introduced. Alleviating the nurse faculty shortage has become a priority. Most proposed federal legislation to address the RN shortage in the U.S. 110th Congress have included components to boost the faculty supply, including the Nurses' Higher Education and Loan Repayment Act of 2008 which provides graduate student loan reimbursement, and the Nurse Education, Expansion, and Development Act which provides capitation grants to schools of nursing to recruit more faculty. Though federal funding for nursing education in general has been level for the past three years, appropriations for the Nurse Faculty Loan Program has nearly doubled since FY 2004 (AACN, 2008b).
At the state level, many programs have been introduced and/or established to provide funding for nurses to complete a graduate degree in nursing in exchange for a commitment to teach. Among the states offering this attractive option are Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, Texas and Vermont. Efforts are also underway through foundations, such as The California Endowment, and companies including Johnson & Johnson, to offer scholarship programs to increase the faculty pool, with an emphasis on bringing much needed diversity to the nurse educator population.
At the local level, individual schools of nursing and their practice partners also are working to find creative ways to bridge the faculty gap (AACN, 2005). Many schools are partnering with hospitals and other clinical agencies to "share" graduate-prepared nurses who are also interested in teaching. Some schools have removed restrictions, thus allowing retired faculty to teach part time, while others are enhancing benefits and raising salaries to strengthen recruitment and retention efforts. To prepare younger nursing students for faculty careers, many institutions now offer a variety of fast-track programs, including baccalaureate to doctoral degrees and accelerated master's programs. These programs offer an intense, rigorous educational experience for bright nursing students and are helping to increase the pipeline of nurses with the educational preparation needed to teach. Nurse faculty are also stepping up efforts to mentor nursing students and enlighten them about the many benefits that come with a teaching career (Bartels, 2005).
Teaching is a rich and rewarding pursuit for nurses looking to share their clinical expertise with those entering the profession or nurses returning to practice with advanced preparation. One of the strongest motivators to teach is that teaching provides an opportunity to influence student success and shape the next generation of nurses. As an educator, one can model professional values and skills, and ultimately influence the quality of care provided by future nurses. Fortunately, the national spotlight on the faculty shortage has piqued the interest of many nurses in practice who are looking to enter the teaching arena but are not sure where to begin. For our purposes, nurses in "practice" include those caring for patients, managing patient care units and agencies, and serving in advanced practice roles. Though eager to share their expertise with nursing students, many of these individuals have questions about what is required to transition from the practice setting to the academic environment, even on a part-time basis. They are asking:
What credentials do I need in order to teach and what assistance is available to make this transition?
What skills must good teachers possess and where can I look to develop a new level of teaching competence?
How does academia differ from clinical practice and what inside information do I need to know to succeed as a nurse educator?
These questions and many others will be addressed in this article in which the authors describe types of faculty appointments, educational qualifications needed for teaching, considerations in taking a faculty position, beginning a faculty position and learning about the academic work environment, and faculty development opportunities. They conclude by paying special attention to the essential skills needed to become a nurse educator and flourish in a teaching role.
Online J Issues Nurs. 2008;13(3) © 2008 American Nurses Association
Cite this: Transitioning From Nursing Practice to a Teaching Role - Medscape - Sep 30, 2008.