What is the Future of Nursing Education?

by Andrew Hibel

Article content is provided by HigherEdJobs.
Nurses are always in high demand, thus nursing education is an increasing priority in higher education. In this month's interview, Patricia Demers, faculty member at Northern Essex Community College and president of the Massachusetts/Rhode Island League for Nursing discusses her current role, the role of nursing faculty, and current challenges facing nurse educators.

Andrew Hibel, HigherEdJobs: Ms. Demers, you are currently a faculty member at the Division of Health Professions at Northern Essex Community College and also the current president of the Massachusetts/Rhode Island League for Nursing. Please tell us about your professional path that led to your positions today.

Patricia Demers, MS, MPH, RN, NE-BC, CNE, faculty member at the Division of Health Professions at Northern Essex Community College, and president of the Massachusetts/Rhode Island League for Nursing: My professional path began with a BSN and a medical-surgical staff nurse job in a small community hospital. With time, I completed two higher education degrees (MS with a concentration in Parent-Child Health Nursing and MPH with a concentration in Health Services), each complementing my areas of practice: six years of pediatric nursing and over twenty years of nursing administration.

During my years of practice and administration, I did some teaching for my peers and staff. Teaching and learning was very satisfying to me and fifteen years ago, I transitioned into a nursing educator role and subsequently an assistant dean position. This was my time to "give back." I followed a path much like many other nurses and entered teaching later in life.

Hibel: As stated on the NLS website, "The National League for Nursing is the premier organization for nurse faculty and leaders in nursing education." What goals as president do you have for your local chapter to support this mission?

Demers: As a Constituent League, the Massachusetts/Rhode Island League for Nursing (MARILN) supports the NLN core values of caring, integrity, diversity, and excellence. Specifically, our chapter provides continuing education for our educators, mentoring of colleagues, and participation with other professional organizations to promote nursing education and practice. My own goal is to facilitate the resources and tools to achieve MARILN objectives.

Additionally, many of our board members participate in other professional organizations including the Massachusetts Coalition for Action. This group has been part of the Campaign for Action responsible for spearheading advancing academic progression and promoting diversity-two of the six "pillars" for action.

Hibel: What are some of the key qualities that make a good nurse educator faculty member?

Demers: Some of the key qualities of a successful nurse educator are: empathy, leader, change agent, facilitator of learning, and commitment to continuous quality improvement, student outcomes, and life-long learning.

Hibel: The shortage in nursing faculty is a problem. As noted, "Nursing programs across the country are rejecting qualified candidates because there are not enough faculty members to teach them. In 2011-2012, 64 percent of all nursing programs turned away qualified applicants." What do you think can be done to help reduce the shortage?

Demers: The solution to faculty shortage is complex and requires many interventions. Salary is important, as is appropriate workload, work-life balance, and a recognition that tenure versus non-tenure may be a detriment to recruiting and retaining nurse faculty.

"Growing your own" can help by developing nurse educator certificate programs, as well as offering post-master's certificates. These are a few examples.

Hibel: In addition to the faculty shortage, a recent paper discussed the problem of nursing faculty overload issues along with recommendations to address these problems, such as: increase faculty salary in order to recruit and retain faculty, provide mentoring programs for new faculty members, and allow a more flexible work-life balance to retain more experienced or older faculty. What are your thoughts on these recommendations and are there other aspects that institutions can do to support their faculty?

Demers: My thoughts are as noted earlier and also include the need to invite practice nurses into the education world by role modeling and engaging them in our clinical experiences and classrooms. Simulation might be an excellent area for practice and nurse educators to share their expertise and knowledge.

We need to define an appropriate workload. There are many variations to calculate the work. Some institutions use credit hours while others calculate contact hours.

Hibel: In 2015, 57% of the 673 schools offer the tenure track for nurse educators with only 38% of full time faculty tenured or on the tenure track. What are your thoughts on these statistics and if these numbers impact the amount of faculty committing to the field?

Demers: These statistics tell us about the problem and its seriousness. There are many aspects to tenure, and minimally, these include educational preparation, research, and scholarship. Each of these areas require much work and time, not to mention that the workload is already considered overwhelming.

Hibel: Increasing diversity in both nursing students and nurse educators is a priority for the organization and profession. What are your thoughts on the importance of increasing diversity in nurse educators and how this can be done?

Demers: Diversity in nursing and nursing education is important for the profession and the communities we serve. We need to represent the populations in our states and country. Meeting middle age and high school students to discuss nursing as a profession and to influence their career choice is one option. Again, it is important to recognize that diversity and recruiting of faculty require many strategies. There is no "silver bullet."

Hibel: Speaking of diversity, the percentage of men in nursing education is small, with the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) stating that only 5 percent of full-time faculty teaching at baccalaureate and higher-degree schools of nursing, and 4.5 percent of the nation's 838 nursing school deans are men. How do you think this impacts the field?

Demers: With fewer male nurses, we have fewer opportunities to represent this population and provide for their needs, let alone attract them to education and nursing dean positions.

Hibel: The good news is that there are resources to promote males in nursing education such as the Advancing Men in Nursing (AAMN) Organization. Are there other resources that our audience should be aware of in terms of advancing diversity as a whole in the field of nursing education?

Demers: In addition to the above, there are several nursing organizations for minorities such as the Asian American/Pacific Islander Nurses Association, Inc. the National Alaska Native American Indian Nurses Association, Inc., the National Association of Hispanic Nurses, Inc., and the National Black Nurses Association (NBNA). Minority Nurse (publication) depicts current issues and is useful for providing resources for minority nurses, including scholarships and other programs of interest.

Hibel: What keeps you engaged working in the field of nursing education?

Demers: By choice, I am employed part time, and this provides me a work life balance and opportunity to teach what I enjoy.