According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, only 2.1% of deans and directors are 45 years of age or younger. Further, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a large percentage of senior nursing faculty members and Academic Nurse Administrators (ANAs) will retire over the next decade, and half are likely to retire by 2020. While experienced ANAs are retiring or resigning, formal mentoring for incoming Novice Academic Nurse Administrators (NANAs) remains relatively absent. Few nurses or nursing faculty fully grasp the complex responsibilities of this position. Typically, ANAs preside over the perpetual cycle of nursing student admission, academic progression, student attrition, and graduations. The specific roles and legal responsibilities of ANAs are outlined by each state in their state nurse practice act. Most programs are offered in community colleges or universities.
Regardless of the location or type of nursing educational program, ANAs are responsible for the majority of decisions made regarding the legal operations of these programs. Ultimately, ANAs are critical to the delivery, operations, and sustainability of nursing education and ultimately to the perseverance of the nursing profession. Unfortunately, formal nursing educational programs seldom address the daunting operational challenges that ANAs—and particularly NANAs—face when attempting to meet the expectations of this role transition. Consequently, vacancies loom across the nation, creating an urgent need for retention through formal mentoring.
Significant Challenges for ANAs
Experienced and novice ANAs are responsible for their nursing program’s state approval through accreditation. This lengthy endeavor requires at least one year of advanced preparation. State accreditation for pre-licensure nursing programs includes a program self-study and program evaluation, generally under severe time constraints. Accreditation topics under review include a total program evaluation plan, sufficiency of resources, appropriate administration, nursing faculty, nursing content experts, curriculum assessment, adequate clinical facilities, demonstration of student engagement, and a self-study summary. Additional responsibilities include monitoring the program’s National Council of Licensure Examination for Registered Nursing (NCLEX-RN) pass rates, sustaining student enrollment, maintaining nursing faculty stability, retaining program accreditation, and remaining fiscally sound despite varying degrees of institutional rigidity. Seasoned ANAs recognize that the terminal goal for each nurse graduate is to successfully pass the NCLEX-RN exam and thus earn state registered nursing licensure.
For ANAs, policymaking occurs continuously. Issues are brought to administration and faculty for exploration of the necessity to make or change policies to ensure that educational and nursing practice standards are current, and to change policies when they are not. Changes are also generated by requirements of affiliating health care agencies, university, college, and statewide policy recommendations that require extensive institutional buy-in and support. Many ANAs exert great efforts to receive institutional and faculty support in the operations of their nursing programs. A 2014 study in Nursing Education Perspectives found that among 242 ANAs, factors associated with job dissatisfaction included a lack of institutional support, mentorship, recognition, and respect. Furthermore, over a decade ago, it was reported that aging, bullying, and stress correlated with increased vacancies among all ANAs. In a current online survey of nursing faculty from 12 of the 15 highest-ranked universities, 22.5% reported not having a mentor, most (61.2%) found mentors on their own, and only 16.3% had formally assigned mentors. Overall, studies have revealed that the most helpful role transition experiences came from mentoring (53.5%), while (30.2%) came from work experiences, strongly indicating the need for formal mentoring.
Formal Mentoring Praxis
In Integrated Theory & Knowledge Development in Nursing, authors Peggy Chinn and Maeona Kramer define praxis as the integration of knowing: empirical, ethical, aesthetic, personal, and emancipatory concepts. In formal mentoring, experienced ANA mentors will apply their integration of knowing through mentorship of NANAs with the following conceptual guidelines:
- Empirical: Use of a practical and pragmatic approach to mentoring
- Ethical: Addresses the legal issues affecting nursing education
- Aesthetic: Sharing of creative artistic diagrams, charts, and visual aids
- Personal: Storytelling of lessons learned as an experienced ANA
- Emancipatory: Supporting the independence and growth of the mentee
Critical Social Theory (CST) and NANA Mentoring
Critical social theorists aim to aid in the process of progressive social change by identifying not only what is, but also identifying the existing (explicit and implicit) ideals of any given situation and analyzing the gap between what is and what might and ought to be. In Advances in Nursing Science, P.E. Stevens identified six tenets of CST. Three of the six tenets of CST have important underpinnings to the praxis of leadership mentoring for NANAs. The first tenet examines the academic institutions’ social, political, and economic influence on the development of a formal NANAs mentoring program. The second seeks to reduce invisible oppressive institutional rigidity found in an academic environment while the third seeks to provide formal mentoring that emancipates and liberates the NANAs leadership potential.
Strategy and Implementation
Following the attendance of a formal mentoring workshop, ANAs would be assigned to mentor NANAs for one year. The three tenets of CST would serve as guides for the ANAs mentoring endeavors. Informed by CST and the praxis (integration of knowing), ANAs will share knowledge beyond empirics to more aesthetic, ethical, personal, and emancipatory patterns. The ANA mentor and NANA mentee would agree upon a formal mentoring schedule of two-hour weekly meetings to address specific nursing program director related topics, such as:
- Faculty to Director Role Transition
- Compliance with the State Nurse Practice Act
- Program Directors Manuals/Handbooks
- Maintaining State Program Accreditation
- Writing of Policies and Procedures
- Seeking Institutional Support
- Handbooks (Student & Faculty)
- Ethical and Legal Issues
- Essential Documentation
- Hiring and Orientation of New Staff and faculty
- Collegiality Among Stakeholders
- New Student Orientations
- New Student Admissions
- Academic Progression
- Student Advisement
- Student Attrition/Retention
- Student Essential Behaviors
- NANAs Scholarly Expectations
- Grant Writing
- Promotions, Tenure
- Director & Faculty Professional Development
This formal mentoring program design aims to report positive post survey responses in job satisfaction and retention among NANAs. It is intended to create scholarly academic dialogue to explore the implementation of this mentoring model for NANAs. Future research and discussion will focus on the qualitative experiences of the ANAs mentors’ roles and NANAs mentees as participants. The provision of the CST as a framework for the praxis of formal mentoring guides ANAs in their mentoring endeavors. The success of a praxis leadership mentoring model can facilitate enhanced role transition and increased retention among NANAs.