Sandra Sanchez-Zutic, RNC, a child/adolescent psychiatric nurse, gained the confidence to get more involved in her local nursing association and run for office. She’s now vice president of the New Jersey chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses.
Teresa Sewall Philogene, RN, a clinical research associate for a major pharmaceutical company, renewed her commitment to continue her professional education and pursue a master’s degree.
School nurse Cynthia Samuel, RN, MS, sharpened her focus on what she wants to study on the doctoral level and made contacts that will enable her to advocate for school health issues statewide.
These three minority nurses come from diverse backgrounds and specialties, but they all share one thing in common: They have leadership potential. And now, thanks to a unique program at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, they are better equipped to develop their natural leadership abilities and pursue their goals. They are among 17 nurses to participate this year in the Minority Nurse Leadership Institute (MNLI), an annual nine-month program (October to June) developed through the Educational Opportunity Fund Program at the Rutgers College of Nursing in Newark.
Established in 1999, the institute’s mission is to help minority RNs continue their education, advance into leadership roles and use their influence to improve minority and community health. MNLI Project Director Deborah Walker McCall, RN, MBA, says the program is the only one of its kind in the country, as far as Rutgers officials know. As the institute becomes more established, she would like to see it become a national model and replicated at other universities.
The institute recruits nurses of color from New Jersey, New York and neighboring Northeastern states who have completed or are working toward a BSN or MSN degree and have demonstrated leadership ability in nursing, such as involvement in civic activities or professional organizations, holding offices, etc. MNLI Fellows must also demonstrate a commitment to working with minority populations in urban communities and serving as mentors to other nurses.
The size of the group is kept relatively small–no more than 25 nurses per year–so that participants can get to know one another and receive individual attention. The nurses attend monthly, daylong Saturday workshops at Rutgers on leadership topics like public speaking and networking. They ¬then get a chance to apply what they’ve learned by creating a community health project. The project must coincide with the goals of Healthy People 2010, the national campaign to eliminate minority health disparities and increase life expectancy and quality of life for all Americans. Each MNLI Fellow is also partnered with a mentor who is a leader in the nursing or health care profession.
A U.S. Department of Health and Human Services grant provided seed money to start the institute, and grants from the Kellogg Foundation and Johnson & Johnson have funded the program in subsequent years. While the MNLI is currently dependent on annual grants to continue, McCall hopes an endowment will be established to provide ongoing funding. The program, she says, has benefited from the strong support of College of Nursing Dean Hurdis Griffith, RN, PhD.
The institute’s long-term goal is for its graduates to serve as role models and agents of change who can make a far-reaching impact in providing culturally appropriate care to minority communities, championing health care reform, encouraging young people to enter the nursing profession and persuading other nurses of color to become leaders as well.
Noting that minority nurses are severely underrepresented in health care management, academia, policy making and other leadership roles, McCall, who is African American, envisions MNLI graduates advancing to positions where they can advocate for minority patients and help end race-based health care disparities. “The biggest things I’d like to see happen as a result of this institute are the improved health of minority populations and an actual elimination of the health gap,” she says.
Take Me to Your Leaders
Through the monthly workshop seminars, MNLI Fellows gain exposure to the wide spectrum of nursing disciplines and leadership positions to which they can aspire.
“It really begins to let them see that the nursing profession offers many more options than just working at the bedside,” comments Yvonne Wesley, RN, PhD, an African-American nurse and MNLI mentor who is vice president of research and development for the Northern New Jersey Maternal Child Health Consortium. “To become minority nurse leaders, they need to have that big-picture perspective.”
The institute does more than emphasize that nurses of color can rise to the top and become hospital CEOs, heads of government agencies, nursing school deans and more—it proves it by bringing participants face to face with role models who have done just that.
“The MNLI brings together a hard-core cadre of accomplished minority faculty and professionals,” says Rutgers University College of Nursing Assistant Professor Gloria McNeal, RN, PhD, CS, another mentor for the institute. “You can see in [the students’] faces that they didn’t even know people like us existed.”
Institute Fellows not only get to learn from top-ranked minority scholars and health officials in a lecture format, they also get to chat informally with them.
“Unless you’re lucky enough to be able to go to national conferences, you really wouldn’t have access to that level of professionals,” Sanchez-Zutic explains. The opportunity to get acquainted with such high-caliber nurse leaders, she adds, is akin to “physicists getting to talk to Einstein.”
Besides offering instruction, workshop leaders also share their personal stories of frustration and triumph. “It was really such an incredible opportunity to see nurses of color in these positions of power and listen to how they did it and get the feeling that yes, you can do it, too,” says Sanchez-Zutic.
Cynthia Samuel agrees that participants can’t help but be inspired by what these minority nurse leaders have accomplished. “You get consumed by their passion. You just want to be like them,” she relates. “I love to surround myself with people who are goal-oriented, who are driven and enthusiastic and willing to share information. I look forward to each session because of the caliber of people who will be there and the information that’s being presented.”
Building Leadership Skills
Behind every great leader there are great leadership skills. The MNLI program introduces minority nurses to leadership concepts that they otherwise might have to spend years learning on the job. The workshops focus on how to network, negotiate, work through the political process, give effective public presentations and form partnerships with other health care professionals.
Participants also take the Myers-Briggs personality assessment test to learn the characteristics of their leadership styles and an accompanying test that reveals the types of people with whom they work best. They also receive guidance in how to capitalize on their strong points and strengthen their weaknesses so they can shape an effective management style.
Bernice Dillard, RN, MSN, APNC, a student health services nurse at Rutgers University who attended the institute in its first year, says this skill-building approach helped her gain a greater awareness of the leadership contributions she can make, particularly in the area of influencing young people to enter the field of nursing.
That type of leadership role comes naturally to Dillard, who is currently president of the South New Jersey chapter of the National Black Nurses Association. “But I just don’t think I ever realized how significant that role was,” she recalls. “I wish I would have been able to attend this institute about 20 years ago!”
Testing Their Wings
Through the minority health projects they complete while they attend the institute, MNLI Fellows get a unique opportunity to not only translate theory into practice but also make an immediate impact on their communities. The purpose of the projects is to increase participants’ understanding and involvement in minority health care issues while enabling them to become involved in real-world leadership activities.
For example, two nurses in the program worked together to develop a prostate cancer screening initiative in partnership with the community service group 100 Black Men of New Jersey. According to the federal Office of Minority Health, the prostate cancer death rate for African-American men is more than twice that of white men.
Another MNLI participant designed a project to improve access to prenatal care for homeless women. Other nurses’ projects have run the gamut from teaching senior citizens how to manage chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, to raising Asian-American college students’ awareness about dating violence and sexual assault.
For her project, Samuel decided she wanted to increase public awareness about hepatitis C, a disease on the rise in her community. She held a workshop for students and parents at Grove Street Elementary School in Irvington, N.J. About 30 people attended and learned about hepatitis risk factors, prevention and testing. The event was so successful that the local newspaper wrote about it, giving the topic even wider community exposure.
Teresa Sewall Philogene focused on diabetes and hypertension, diseases that are disturbingly prevalent in her Caribbean culture and have touched her personally. “High blood pressure and diabetes unfortunately run in my family, so these problems are in the forefront of my mind,” she explains.
In collaboration with three African-American congregations in her community, Philogene created a program to educate people about the risk factors and how to prevent these illnesses through diet and exercise. “This gives me a chance to get back to my roots,” she emphasizes.
The Fellows’ mentors help guide them as they plan and carry out their community
projects. Samuel feels that the support she received from her mentor, Yvonne Wesley, was priceless. “She was immediately excited [about my topic]. She gave me tips on preparing information packets, who to talk to, how to advertise. She even came to the hepatitis workshop and brought colleagues with her.”
Samuel adds that she found more than a mentor in Wesley–she found a friend. “We’ve bonded significantly,” she says. “We just clicked.”
Wesley, in turn, enjoys the role of supporting future leader like Samuel, who already have the drive and vision for where they want to go. “I wouldn’t have gotten to where I am in my own career without the support of mentors who showed me the way,” she remembers. “Now, as a mentor myself, I get a sense of giving back.”
For More Information
Although many of the participants in the Rutgers University College of Nursing’s Minority Nurse Leadership Institute (MNLI) are recruited by the program, nurses of color who have demonstrated strong potential for leadership ability can also apply for MNLI Fellowships. Applicants must be racial or ethnic minority RNs and should live within easy traveling distance of the Rutgers campus in New Jersey so they can attend monthly workshops and meet with their assigned mentors.
Tuition for the nine-month program is currently $500, with discounts available to members of minority nursing associations and other nursing professional organizations. Scholarships and other forms of financial aid are available. Keep in mind, though, that admission to the program is highly competitive—the MNLI is limited to a maximum of 25 nurses per year.
For more information, visit the Web site http://nursing.rutgers.edu or contact:
Deborah Walker McCall, RN, MBA
Director, Educational Opportunity Fund
Project Director, MNLI
Rutgers College of Nursing, EOF
Conklin Hall, Suite 226
175 University Avenue
Newark, NJ 07102
(973) 353-5326, ext. 523
Fax (973) 353-1495
It doesn’t take a PhD to figure out why the nation’s nursing schools urgently need to develop more faculty members in general and more minority faculty in particular—you just have to do some simple math.
First of all, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN)’s most recent survey of instructional and administrative faculty in baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs, the average age of full-time doctorally prepared faculty in 1999-2000 was 50 years. This breaks down into an average age of 49.5 for assistant professors, 52.8 for associate professors and 55.7 for full professors. As today’s baby boomer nurse educators continue to retire at a rapid rate, not enough new faculty are coming in to replace them.
Secondly, despite the ever-growing racial and ethnic diversity of the U.S. population, the vast majority of nursing school faculty is still overwhelmingly white. The AACN survey reports that 91.2% of all full-time nurse educators are Caucasian, while only 5.4% are African American, 1.3% are Hispanic, 1.4% are Asian, 0.4% are Native American and 0.2% are Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander. Furthermore, of the 8.8% of nursing faculty members who are minorities, just 9.3% are full professors and only 32.4% are tenured.
Clearly, there is a tremendous need for more nursing faculty of color, especially at institutions that are actively trying to attract a more culturally diverse student population. As a result, positions in the field of teaching and academia are becoming an even more attractive career alternative for minority nurses than ever before. Because colleges and universities across the country are fighting over the precious few minority faculty who are out there, these educators can generally have their pick of universities, areas of the country in which to live and fields of study.
A career in education can be both an extremely challenging and highly rewarding experience. How can you tell if becoming a faculty member is right for you? Here’s what some minority nurses who have chosen this career path have to say.
Teaching is Just the Beginning
The first thing to keep in mind about academic careers is that faculty duties involve more than just teaching. Nearly all colleges and universities also require their educators to conduct research and perform service to their school, the nursing profession and the community.
To be successful in academia, nurse educators need to do more than just the basics, believes Cynthia Flynn Capers, RN, PhD, dean of the University of Akron College of Nursing in Akron, Ohio. “You must have a real love and commitment to teaching and learning,” she says.
“Nursing schools expect you to join nursing organizations and attend meetings that will give you a voice in the profession,” continues Capers, who is African American. “And while serving as an officer or committee chair for these organizations is not required, most nursing schools consider it an added plus.”
Nursing faculty are also expected to assist their college or university by joining campus committees, participating on task forces and advising and recruiting students.
Pao-Feng Tsai, RN, PhD, assistant professor in the College of Nursing at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, serves on the department’s research committee. “I can choose from a variety of committees,” she says. “I need to participate at both the college and university levels. In addition, I must attend professional conferences and be a manuscript reviewer. If possible, I also hope to become an officer in a professional association.”
While Tsai spends both time and energy on the service aspect of her faculty position, it occupies far less of her attention than the other two components—teaching and research. “I probably spend a total of one to two weeks a year on service,” she comments.
But for faculty members at some other educational institutions, service is a bigger part of the picture. “Every week, I do some service activity,” explains Betty Chang, FNP, DNSc, FAAN, professor at the UCLA School of Nursing in Los Angeles. “In our faculty, everyone has at least two committee assignments at the university, but I’m a senior faculty member, so I’m on even more committees.”
In addition to committee work at the university, Chang is active on an American Academy of Nursing committee, where she reviews manuscripts. “If you are part of an organization, you cannot help but be involved,” she says.
Even though teaching and research take most of her time, Chang feels her service activities are extremely important as well. Her advice to nurses considering an academic career is: Be prepared to work hard. “I work at my office and at home, seven days a week and many evenings,” she explains. “In the summers when I am not teaching, I am conducting research and publishing the findings.”
On top of all this, faculty members are also expected to do community service, says Capers. “Typical community service includes giving health education seminars, serving on boards and using your expertise to benefit the health of the community.”
“I Just Knew Teaching Was for Me”
Although their career clearly involves a lot of hard work, most nurse educators are passionate about the important impact their work has on the nursing profession. “Teaching is more demanding than I first thought it would be,” states Duck-Hee Kang, RN, PhD, assistant professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, “but it is also more exciting. I get excited when my students get excited. I help them learn to set high goals and always aim for quality work.”
For those students who hope to follow in her footsteps and become educators themselves, “I tell them that being a faculty member is a commitment to the nursing profession,” Kang asserts. “They start learning how to teach by observing teaching styles and volunteering to work with a faculty member. This helps them learn that teaching is more than just what goes on in the classroom—it also includes all the preparation that happens first.
“I just knew teaching was for me,” she adds. “It’s a way to make a contribution to the coming generations by using my experience and helping students learn.”
At Coppin State College School of Nursing in Baltimore, one of the nation’s Historically Black Colleges, Dr. Earlene Merrill, assistant dean of nursing, recently participated in a training session focused on the challenges of teaching students in the 21st century. “We talked about creating an exciting classroom setting to keep students motivated and involved,” she says.
More so than in previous generations, today’s student nurses want to be self-directed and to make their own decisions, Merrill believes. This creates a challenge for faculty members, who must develop a teaching pedagogy that helps students become both self-directed and successful.
“Teaching is much more difficult than it looks,” she points out. “It entails more work than many suspect when they begin.”
Merrill also emphasizes that nurse educators have to know how to maneuver through the academic setting to obtain the resources they need, such as teaching supplies, secretarial help or manageable class sizes. “Sometimes administrators do not understand what educators need,” she says. “I tell my students that in teaching, patience is rule number one and persistence is rule number two.”
What It Takes
In recent years, the health care industry’s severe shortage of hospital nursing staff has also begun to negatively impact the development of future nursing faculty. In some cases, schools of nursing have been forced to put more emphasis on their clinical nursing programs, while academic tracks that prepare students for teaching careers were neglected or even cancelled altogether
Miguel da Cunha, PhD, a professor in the Department of Nursing to Target Populations at the University of Texas School of Nursing in Houston, saw this happen at his institution. “We had three different tracks at the master’s level: administration, teaching and clinical,” he explains. “There has been such a need for clinicians that we cancelled the teaching and administrative tracks for awhile. But now there is a reemergence of interest in education and we are reinstating them.”
When students ask him about becoming a faculty member, da Cunha is encouraging but realistic. “There are not many perks or company cars,” he tells them. “Our perks are what we get back from the students and our own personal satisfaction.”
Da Cunha compares academics’ triple duties of teaching, research and service to a lopsided three-legged stool: In terms of professional recognition, teaching is the short leg. “Research tends to get all the glory,” he maintains.
He has reason to know both sides. Originally in research, he switched to the classroom in the 1970s. Since then, da Cunha has earned three John P. McGovern Outstanding Teaching Awards.
He personally defines outstanding teachers as people who love their profession, are committed to continuously learning and who share their knowledge and techniques in peer review journals. “Teaching and scholarship have to be complementary,” he says.
Advising, too, is a necessary component of a successful academic career, da Cunha adds. “Advising is an important part of teaching—it is mentorship. Teaching is not limited to what you do in the classroom. Advising means guiding students through their education process. I keep in touch with my students throughout their program, advising them on strategies to improve their achievements. That’s part of the joys of teaching. Students keep me rejuvenated.”
Mentoring and advising is particularly important for minority students, who can sometimes feel isolated or slip through the cracks in predominately white nursing schools. Minority professors can serve as empowering role models for students of color, letting them see that they too can become successful nurses, educators and researchers.
The Rigors of Research
Leonie Pallikkathayil, RN, DNS, winner of the University of Kansas Chancellor’s Award for Distinguished Professorship, is associate professor at the University of Kansas Medical Center School of Nursing in Kansas City and is extremely active in research. One of her most recent projects was a study funded by the National Institutes of Health on fatigue in healthy individuals.
Pallikkathayil advises master’s-level students who plan to become nurse educators to “do a master’s thesis or a research project,” to prepare them for the research component of a faculty member’s duties. “It’s important to get first-hand experience in the research process,” she says. She also recommends that students work with faculty as research assistants to “get experience in being part of a team and to observe different aspects of research work.”
Being a successful researcher, and therefore a successful nurse educator, requires several key qualities, Pallikkathayil believes: “It takes energy, enthusiasm, imagination, creativity, patience and persistence. Plus, you have to be able to balance the demands of teaching, research, service and practice requirements and still have a life!”” She also stresses the ability to deal with disappointment, because of the amount of rejection that goes along with research. “You won’t get funded each time you apply for a grant,” she explains.
Nursing professors are often quick to recognize a student’s inclination toward research. When Bertha Davis, RN, MS, PhD, FAAN, assistant dean for research at Hampton University’s School of Nursing in Hampton, Va., encounters a student who is a critical thinker and shows curiosity about why and how things happen, she knows he or she would make a great researcher.
“When research-oriented students create care plans or research papers, they are really detailed about rationales and they question information,” says Davis, who is also a professor at the historically black university. “They look for alternative points of view in the clinical setting. When students possess those qualities, I want to see them continue their education.”
Educators such as Davis are eager to develop more minority nurse research professors, because of the enormous need for culturally sensitive research on diseases and health risks that disproportionately affect people of color. “I believe all faculty members should review their notions about cultural appropriateness to help create culturally competent research practices,” Davis states.
However, she cautions, “Just because a faculty member is a minority does not mean that they are sensitive to all people in their culture. There are many subcultures, and we have to learn what research subjects’ specific environments are like.”
Packaging Your Career
Back when Maria Warda, RN, PhD, was a health care administrator, she discovered she had been preparing to move into a career in academia—without even knowing it. Her experiences in a variety of work environments and countries, and the joy she felt in helping new nurses develop themselves professionally, made her want to use this passion to teach nurses in a college or university setting.
“That’s when I decided to return to school for a doctorate,” says Warda, who is now assistant dean of diversity enhancement and academic services at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Nursing. “I believe good faculty members must have a passion for lifelong learning, as well as a real commitment to enhancing the learning experiences of their students.”
Teaching can be particularly rewarding for minority nurses, adds Warda. “Minority nursing faculty members have different perspectives [than majority faculty],” she says. “It’s important for us to bring those perspectives to the classroom and share them with students.”
Faculty Salaries 101
A common objection to careers in academia is that faculty members earn lower salaries than nurses in clinical or administrative positions. But is this perception really true?
The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) reports that college and university nursing professors with doctorates earned an average of $68,779 for the 1999-2000 academic year. What’s more, that figure represents an increase of 3.8% from the previous year.
Even on lower rungs of the academic ladder, faculty earnings compare more favorably with clinical nursing salaries than you might think. Here is the AACN’s breakdown of salaries by rank for the academic year 1999-2000:
$68,779 (With Doctorate) $62,294 (Without Doctorate)
$56,585 (With Doctorate) $46,734 (Without Doctorate)
$48,738 (With Doctorate) $41,870 (Without Doctorate)
$44,359 (With Doctorate ) $39,487 (Without Doctorate)
The AACN study also found that administrative faculty generally earn more than instructional faculty.
An urgent shortage of nursing faculty isn’t just something to worry about in the future. It’s here now.
According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), U.S. nursing schools turned away more than 32,000 qualified students in 2004. Most of those schools cited a lack of faculty as the reason these students could not be admitted. Add in a wave of nursing faculty retirements that’s expected to sweep the nation over the next 10 years and the implications for the future of nursing become very serious indeed.
In light of these alarming statistics, a growing number of nursing graduate programs across the country are offering education-focused master’s degrees–ranging from Master’s in Nursing Education to MSN degrees with a nursing education certificate or option–designed to move nurses from clinical practice into teaching positions quickly. Of course, these types of programs are not exactly new. But what’s newsworthy about them these days is that many schools have recently begun to offer them for the first time as a direct response to the faculty shortage.
Traditionally, nurse educators have taken a long, sometimes daunting path to the faculty ranks. It involved hours in the classroom, both as a student and as a teaching or graduate assistant. A master’s degree was just the beginning: Potential educators were expected to eventually complete a PhD or EdD, terminal degrees conferred after more time in the classroom, extensive research and public service.
Most nursing programs today still require or prefer doctorally prepared faculty, especially for teaching at the baccalaureate level and above. But with the current hemorrhaging of the nursing faculty supply, there’s no denying that a fast-track approach to producing more nurse educators is becoming more and more of a necessity.
From Nurse to Teacher
Heather Griffin, an African American nurse who was born in Jamaica, is one of those students who will soon be making the transition from clinical nurse to nursing educator. She will graduate in May from William Paterson University in Wayne, N.J., with an MSN degree with a concentration in nursing education. And she’s already fielding offers to become a faculty member.
Griffin returned to school for her master’s after working as a nurse for 15 years. One reason was purely physical. She says she felt it wouldn’t be too many more years before the eight-to-12-hour shifts she regularly worked would take their toll on her back and legs. But her biggest motivation had more to do with her heart and head.
“I always liked teaching and working with nursing students,” she explains, “and this opportunity presented itself. I remember how scared I was when I was a new nurse. I want to support new nurses.”
Choosing a master’s program with a focus on nursing education allowed Griffin to concentrate on her new passion–teaching. While she hasn’t ruled out getting a PhD, it isn’t in her immediate plans.
“The next step in my educational advancement was to pursue a master’s degree,” she emphasizes. “It took me a long time to decide to return to school. Part of the focus in a PhD program is research and, at the time that I decided [to go to graduate school], that did not appeal to me.”
Diversifying the Faculty
As the nursing profession gears up to aggressively recruit and train a new generation of nursing educators to replenish the dwindling supply, it hopes to pull from candidates too often overlooked in the past–minorities and men. Both populations have long been severely underrepresented at the faculty level.
“Our programs need to reflect the demographics of society,” says Kem Louie, PhD, RN, FAAN, director of the graduate nursing program at William Paterson University and past president of the Asian American/Pacific Islander Nurses Association. “Ethnic and [racial] minority populations are increasing and it’s important that [minority] nursing students see role models in those that teach and those that practice.”
Many of the current crop of master’s-level nursing educator programs are specifically reaching out to nurses from diverse backgrounds. For example, the College of New Rochelle (CNR) School of Nursing in New Rochelle, N.Y., which launched its new Nurse Educator Master’s Program last fall, has a large population of African American and Hispanic students.
The mission to attract more nurses from underrepresented populations to teaching careers must begin at the undergraduate level, believes Mary Alice Higgins Donius, EdD, RN, who will become the new dean of the CNR School of Nursing in July. She is currently an associate professor in the School of Nursing at Sound Shore Medical Center.
“We have to identify those students who might be interested in nursing education and reach out to them,” Donius says. “[Nurse educators] need to talk to students about why we like [teaching] and how they can plan a career in nursing education.”
The emergence of online distance-learning courses has helped make graduate school more accessible for many types of students, including more minorities, men and people living in rural communities. Clarkson College, based in Omaha, Neb., is a pioneer in providing online education for health care providers. The college offers an MSN program with an option in nursing education, as well as a post-master’s certificate in nursing education.
“The school is totally online and we have students located all over the country,” notes Marla Erbin-Roesemann, PhD, RN, associate professor and director of the college’s graduate program. Students in the nursing education master’s program visit the campus physically only once or twice during the program. They perform required clinical rotations and preceptor teaching in the communities where they live.
The college makes sure support services are available to help students who need assistance with projects and problems. “Students do get support through their professors and often look to community members for support as well,” Erbin-Roesemann explains. “If they need additional help, it’s handled online. We have counselors on campus. We also have a director of diversity who can talk to students.”
Nurse Educators for Tomorrow
One of the newest master’s degree programs created in response to the nursing faculty shortage is being offered at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Nursing. Funded by a grant from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), this online program likewise hopes to increase the number of nurse educators from underrepresented populations–nurses of color, men and rural nurses.
The program, known as Nurse Educators for Tomorrow (NET), has an unusual two-pronged focus. It trains nurses to become clinical nurse specialists or nurse practitioners with added post-graduate courses that prepare them to be educators as well. Students must complete the standard 36 hours required by most master’s programs, plus nine additional hours in nursing education, including courses covering online teaching and curriculum development.
“Graduates are prepared to function in either setting–as practitioners and/or educators–so it’s a win-win situation,” says Nadine Nehls, PhD, RN, professor and associate dean for academic programs at the nursing school. On the clinical side, students may specialize in either pediatric or medical-surgical care.
The program’s recruiting efforts are assisted by a community liaison, says Gale Barber, MA, assistant dean for graduate studies. This person does community outreach and is actually housed at a rural site in order to put her closer to prospective students.
How has NET succeeded in its first year? Nehls reports that the program has attracted a large percentage of students from rural areas, but so far no minority or male students. The school is closely examining its recruiting plans with an eye toward developing strategies that will more effectively reach these targeted populations.
“This year, we’re going to do more targeted recruitment,” explains Pam Scheibel, MSN, RN, a clinical professor in the program. “We’re looking at alumni lists and trying to make individualized, tailored outreach to these students.”
Even though the program is taught online, one of the major obstacles to attracting more culturally diverse students seems to be simple geography. Madison just doesn’t have a large minority population, says Barber.
Adds Scheibel, “Several [minority] students who have come here and had good experiences during the recruitment process eventually decided to go to school in another area where there’s more [diversity]. Some also choose schools that are able to offer larger scholarships.”
This year, the school’s recruiting efforts will accentuate the program’s online format, helping students realize that the location of the campus is really not that relevant. “Students can stay in their own communities and do their clinical and teaching experience there,” Barber emphasizes.
Master’s vs. Doctorate
Pursuing a career as a master’s-prepared–rather than doctorally prepared–nursing educator is not for everybody. Nurses who are considering making the move to academia need to be aware of the advantages and disadvantages of both options and must evaluate them closely against their particular career goals.
For example, Heather Griffin knows that without a terminal degree, one of the biggest benefits offered by a university–tenure–will not be available for her. The tenure system, exclusive to the academic world, means that a faculty member can’t be fired or downsized except under the most extreme conditions.
“Tenure gives you a sense of permanency and shows that you have paid your dues. You really can’t be asked to leave,” Louie explains.
The lack of a terminal degree will also limit the career advancement options available to a nurse educator. “Having only a master’s degree is going to limit where and how far you go,” says Donius. “A master’s degree in nursing education is a very valuable credential in preparing people for [certain] roles in teaching and nursing. In higher education, though, a master’s degree does have a more limited scope. Nurse educators with master’s degrees are used at the associate degree level and in clinical, off-site settings. If you really want a career in [academic] nursing education, a doctorate will be required.”
But that doesn’t mean you can’t have a very rewarding faculty career without that terminal degree–especially if, like Griffin, what you really want to focus on is teaching.
“According to the Board of Nursing, nurses with a master’s degree can teach in academic programs, which gives a more focused concentration in the role of educator,” Louie points out. “The doctoral degree generally provides a research focus or more specialization in the practice of nursing. Many universities have clinical or non-tenured faculty positions which may or may not have a time limit and can be renewed without a doctoral degree.”
It is very important for newly minted nurse educators to make sure their goals match those of the educational institution they join, Louie advises. “Nursing faculty need to conform to university expectations.” Ultimately, she adds, “I believe nurses who want a career of teaching other nurses will eventually continue toward their doctoral degrees.”
The Money Factor
Salary considerations are another factor nurses contemplating a move to teaching must weigh against their career aspirations as well as their personal goals. Many experts believe faculty pay may well be one of the biggest reasons for the shortage in the number of professors. A recent study by ADVANCE for Nurse Practitioners revealed that the typical salary for an NP working in an emergency room was around $80,000. That’s $20,000 more than the average nursing professor earns.
“A lot of our students [in the nursing education concentration] do not go into education [when they complete the program],” says Erbin-Roesemann. “They go back to nursing because of the money. Educators earn less than staff nurses.”
And educators with only a master’s degree will earn less than their doctorally prepared counterparts. Louie cites a 2002 report by AACN that showed the median salary for all nurses with doctoral degrees to be around $75,000. Those with master’s degrees earned about $15,000 less.
However, she points out, “[Faculty] pay can vary greatly across the country and depending on the type of nursing program, whether it’s a private or public college, and the regional location.”
You’ve weighed all the pros and cons and you’ve decided that a master’s degree program with an emphasis on nursing education is the right option for you. What are your chances of actually getting in?
While methods of delivery have changed, entrance requirements have not. Like most other master’s programs, nursing education programs require a minimum 3.0 GPA, professional and academic references, an essay explaining why you want to enter the program, plus the dreaded GRE®, formally known as the Graduate Record Examination®. The GRE is an assessment test that measures skills in mathematics, comprehension, analytical reasoning and other areas.
“Each [of these entrance requirements] is only one part of an application,” says Nehls. “[In the admissions process,] we look at the whole application.” She adds that the once-common philosophy that years and years of experience were needed to be a good teacher has faded somewhat.
None of the schools interviewed for this article require any previous teaching experience, although many students currently enrolled in their nurse educator programs had worked as preceptors or mentors in clinical settings. At Clarkson College, students may enter the program without any work experience, but are expected to get some quickly.
“Most of our students do have a couple of years experience,” Erbin-Roesemann clarifies. “Students can come right into the master’s program without any work experience but they do need at least one year of experience before starting their option courses. They can get that experience while taking core courses.”
Helping Minority Students Succeed
As the number of underrepresented minority students in graduate school increases, nursing program administrators are taking steps to make sure those students succeed.
We don’t like to talk about students needing help in graduate school, but sometimes it happens,” says Louie. “Many students, particularly if English is not their native language, may need help with writing. Some students have problems with statistics.”
The graduate program at William Paterson University provides a nursing support coordinator who serves as the “go to” person when students have academic problems or trouble with an assignment. “The coordinator is not a professor, so the student is not intimidated,” Louie explains. “The coordinator can work with the professor to see exactly what is expected. The coordinator’s role is to find someone on campus who can help. We do refer students to other resources in any department at the university.”
Funding Future Faculty
For many nurses, lack of financial resources can be an obstacle that keeps them from returning to school to pursue master’s degrees. That’s why many of the current efforts to address the nursing faculty shortage are offering special scholarships, loans and other types of financial assistance for students who make the commitment to become nursing educators.
Heather Griffin, an African American nurse who is currently completing an MSN degree with a concentration in nursing education at William Paterson University in Wayne, N.J., was able to take advantage of the federally funded Nurse Faculty Loan Program (NFLP). William Paterson is one of a limited number of universities to receive these funds through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). Griffin will be able to cancel 85% of the loan she received by completing the degree and working for five years in an approved educational role.
“I was fortunate enough to go back to school full-time and that made me eligible for the loan,” she says. “It is helping me pay for part of my education. [Going back to school] is difficult when you have other financial responsibilities.”
While this loan program is currently available at only two nursing schools, most colleges and universities do have private resources that fund scholarships and assistantship programs for graduate students. Ask about this when choosing a school. Some funds are awarded based on need, some based on merit and some based on potential.
In some parts of the country, financial assistance designed specifically for future nursing educators is available at the state level. The Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning, as part of its Nursing Education Loan Scholarship (NELS) Program, offers a Nursing Teacher Stipend Program for MSN and PhD students who agree to teach at an accredited nursing school in Mississippi upon graduation. Candidates must be Mississippi residents attending a school in that state.
In Pennsylvania, nurses who are interested in going back to school to teach nursing can receive financial assistance from the Nurse Scholars Program, a partnership between Independence Blue Cross and the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency. The program will underwrite scholarship funding for qualified students attending an accredited nursing graduate program in five southeastern Pennsylvania counties. It also gives future nurse educators the opportunity to receive grants and scholarships toward their graduate degree directly from the qualified nursing schools they attend.
One national scholarship program created to increase the supply of doctorally prepared nursing educators is the Monster Healthcare-American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) Nursing Faculty Scholarship. Launched in August 2005, this program provides $25,000 scholarships, plus part-time clinical employment and health benefits, to students enrolled full-time in a baccalaureate-to-doctoral degree or Doctor of Nursing Practice program who intend to pursue faculty careers. Upon graduation, recipients must serve in a teaching capacity at a nursing school for a minimum of one year for each year of scholarship support received.
Last summer, I was approached on campus by an African-American nursing student who said to me: “I have been waiting to meet you. I didn’t know your name or what you looked like. But I was looking for someone [on the faculty] who looks like me. And if I didn’t find you, the university administration would have to answer to why.”
This incident dramatically illustrates the frustration many minority students feel concerning the shortage of minority faculty in the nation’s schools of nursing. While minority student enrollment in college and university nursing programs continues to increase, this growth has not been matched by minority faculty hiring.
Students and teachers alike recognize the importance of providing role models for both minority and majority students in an academic environment of diverse cultures and ethnicities. In particular, the lack of professional role models for students of color within an increasingly diverse U.S. population threatens to result in educational deficits for our minority youth—deficits that could damage America’s future prosperity and our ability to compete in the educational arena with other industrial countries around the world.
Several factors have been identified as contributors to the minority teacher shortage. One of the most troubling and significant of these is a general decline of interest in the teaching profession, partly as a result of non-competitive faculty salaries and slower rates of academic promotion. Furthermore, because the median age of full-time nursing faculty in 1998-99 was 50 years, early retirement programs are taking their toll on the faculty supply.1, 2
Clearly, greater efforts to recruit and retain minority nursing faculty are urgently needed.3 However, a solution to the crippling shortage of minority faculty is unlikely to be achieved without some major adjustments in thinking and methodology on the parts of both nursing school faculty search committees and nurses of color who hope to pursue teaching careers.
The Four Cs
Based on my own experience as a black faculty member teaching at a predominantly white institution, I believe the keys to success in recruiting and retaining minority nursing faculty can be summed up by “the four Cs”—commitment, concern, collaboration and creativity.
Nursing schools must demonstrate commitment and concern about tackling the shortage of minority faculty by providing leadership and sufficient revenues to launch a successful recruitment campaign. Current minority faculty can also provide this commitment from a personal standpoint. A few years ago, when I was the only black faculty member at my institution, I resolved that instead of just complaining about the situation or being passive, I would actively commit myself to improving minority faculty recruitment efforts: I volunteered to chair the university’s faculty search subcommittee.
The third C, collaboration, means there must be active involvement, networking and joint efforts between all concerned parties—not just the search committee but also faculty members, administrators and student representation.
Creativity is perhaps the most overlooked factor in the entire process. Successfully recruiting minority nursing faculty requires both a clearly defined, targeted plan for search efforts and the use of innovative strategies to locate and advertise for minority candidates. This means using not just the traditional sources, such as the Chronicle of Higher Education and AACN journals, but specifically targeting places where minority faculty are likely to be looking for positions—such as local minority media, minority professional organizations and minority colleges.
Creativity also plays a key role in the retention of minority faculty once they are hired. Minority faculty should be offered more opportunities to serve as chairs of committees instead of just committee members. They should also be incorporated into decision-making processes affecting all facets of college life. This can be achieved through a thorough orientation process that promotes collegiality, support and commitment.
Finally, schools of nursing must provide mentoring and growth opportunities for minority faculty members. This can be done by empowering them to assume leadership roles within the institution, by providing opportunities for research and publications through research support programs within the nursing department, by providing clinical or field placements at ethnically diverse institutions and by encouraging seminars that foster cultural sensitivity.3
Bringing the Right Tools to the Table
The other crucial lesson I learned from becoming personally involved in the minority faculty search process was that many of the candidates who apply for faculty positions —and especially the minority candidates—are simply not prepared for careers in academia. This is largely because many would-be nurse educators possess substantial experience as clinical nurse specialists or clinical educators but lack the specific criteria that nursing schools typically use to determine qualified faculty.
Nurses of color who hope to successfully make the transition from the clinical setting to academia must be acutely aware of how faculty search committees will be evaluating their background—and must be fully prepared to meet these criteria. Here is what you will need to bring to the table:
• Education in the area in which you want to teach. Search committees look for education in the form of a terminal degree (PhD, EdD, DNSc, MSN, etc.). The more closely your degree is related to nursing and the specialty area required for the position, the more highly you will be evaluated. If you want to be a professor of nursing, do your doctorate in nursing. If you want to teach a certain nursing specialty, make sure your master’s degree is in that specialty.
• Teaching experience. Don’t expect to land a job as a university professor unless you have some type of experience teaching college-level students. I often recommend starting out as an adjunct, or even teaching in a diploma or associate degree nursing program, to get your feet wet in this crucial area.
• Solid clinical experience. Faculty search committees look for extensive, full-time clinical experience—rather than part-time or short-term experience—that is concentrated in the candidate’s nursing specialty.
• Published scholarship and research. Many minority faculty candidates are especially lacking in this type of experience. Look for opportunities to build a track record by writing and publishing articles in peer-reviewed nursing journals, presenting poster or podium sessions in peer-reviewed forums and conducting independent research.
• Professional and community involvement. This component is critically important. It is not enough to simply belong to your state nursing association or a professional group such as the National Black Nurses Association. Faculty search committees evaluate candidates on the number of professional organizations they belong to, as well as the leadership positions they have held in those organizations. Similarly, active involvement in community service is seen as another key indicator that the candidate is a well-rounded, committed individual.
1. American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, 1989.
2. American Council on Education, 1997.
3. Washington, L. Joyce (1999). “Expanding Opportunities in Graduate Education for Minority Nurses,” Journal of the National Black Nurses Association, 10(1), 68-80.
Fact #1: Registered nurses comprise the largest portion of the health care work force in the United States.1 Fact #2: Of the nearly 2.7 million licensed RNs in this country, only 13% come from racial or ethnic minority backgrounds.2 Fact #3: Twenty-five percent of the total U.S. population—i.e., one out of four Americans—is non-Caucasian.3 Fact #4: Within the next 25 years, the ethnic and racial minority population of the U.S. is projected to increase at a faster rate than the nation’s Caucasian population.1,4
These statistics dramatically illustrate America’s urgent need to develop a more diverse nursing work force that is able to provide culturally and linguistically competent care to our increasingly multicultural population. This means not only increasing the number of minority nurses but also ensuring that nurses of all races and ethnicities are thoroughly prepared to care for patients from widely diverse backgrounds and cultures.
One place to start is by making sure that our nursing schools’ curricula truly reflect the cultural differences of our country’s wide spectrum of racial and ethnic populations. Although curricula may contain accurate cultural terminology, they often lack the qualities that enable students to understand different cultures and their health care needs. When revising curricula to incorporate a multicultural perspective, it is crucial to include in-depth information on cultural factors,6, 7 such as:
• environmental control (e.g., the practice of folk medicine or use of traditional healers) 8
• biological (physical and genetic) differences among cultural groups, which can include not only body build, skin color and hair texture, but also healing responses, susceptibility to disease and nutritional variations8
• social organizations, such as families, that shape an individual’s cultural development, beliefs and responses to major life events
• space and time orientation (e.g., some cultures are future-oriented and concerned with long-range planning while others focus on the present).
In addition, communication is an integral part of nursing practice. To communicate effectively with patients from diverse cultures, nurses must have knowledge of different languages, verbal and nonverbal behaviors, use of silence and attitudes about eye contact. They must understand not only what is communicated but also how it is communicated.
Evening Up the Score
While much has been written about incorporating cultural competency into nursing school curricula, one area that has received little attention is faculty-generated classroom testing. Because test scores play a significant role in student evaluations, it is important to utilize test questions that are as culturally unbiased as possible.
Educators must keep in mind that nursing students come from a diverse range of cultural backgrounds and may lack the necessary experience to perform well on tests if these cultural differences are not taken into account. In fact, a faculty’s failure to recognize the potential for bias in classroom testing can adversely affect minority students’ ability to succeed in the nursing program.
This inability to do well on tests is not due to lack of intelligence, but instead may result from a lack of necessary learned behaviors, or from differences in thinking patterns between cultures.9 For example, the Native American student has learned by stories, legends and role modeling.9 This nonlinear way of learning allows for more than one right answer,9 as opposed to the multiple-choice testing format customarily used in nursing schools. As a result, Indian students may have difficulty not only in learning but also in expressing their knowledge and understanding test questions.
Fortunately, most students are capable of learning test-taking skills if they are given the opportunity. It is the faculty’s responsibility to provide this opportunity—for example, by making tutoring available, within or outside of the nursing department, to help students identify and strengthen areas that need further development, such as writing, studying and time management. Providing these options for minority students does not mean lowering standards; rather, it means that mechanisms should be in place to enable faculty to refer students for additional help if it is needed.
A Culturally Sensitive Approach to Testing
What can nursing schools do to ensure that faculty-generated tests are not inadvertently biased against minority students? One solution is to use culturally sensitive standardized test questions. While these may be hard to find, one helpful resource is the National League for Nursing (www.nln.org), which is striving to make standardized tests culturally sensitive by reviewing them for potential bias. Another recommendation is to have culturally diverse groups of students and faculty evaluate potential test questions.
Within the larger context of providing a culturally sensitive learning experience for all nursing students, it is important to use clinically focused scenarios and class exercises that relate to multicultural issues, and to select textbooks, journal articles and reference materials that reflect cultural diversity. The following texts are recommended for their culturally diverse content:
• Spector, R.E. (1996). Cultural Diversity in Health and Illness (4th edition). Stamford, Conn.: Appleton & Lange.
• Kelly, M.L. & Fitzsimons, V.M. (2000). Understanding Cultural Diversity: Culture, Curriculum, and Community in Nursing. Sudbury, Mass.: Jones & Bartlett.
• Bennett, C.I. (1999). Multicultural Education: Theory and Practice (4th edition). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Finally, inviting culturally diverse guest speakers to discuss culture-specific behaviors and customs can be excellent way to help both students and faculty broaden their understanding of cultural differences.
1. Moses, E.B. (1992, March). Nursing Facts: From the American Nurses Association.
2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Bureau of Health Professions, Division of Nursing (2000, March). Preliminary Findings, National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses.
3. U.S. Census Bureau (2001, March). Census 2000 Brief: Overview of Race and Hispanic Origin.
4. U.S. Census Bureau (1995, August). Selected Social and Economic Characteristics for the 25 Largest American Indian Tribes: 1990.
5. U.S. Census Bureau (1997, October 31). Facts for Native American Month (November 1-30).
6. McCarthy, M. (1996). “Travelers From Many Lands: The Impact of Culture.” In Carson, V.B. & Arnold, E.N. (Eds.), Mental Health Nursing: The Nurse-Patient Journey (1st edition). Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders.
7. Strasser, J., Maurer, F.A., & Kavanagh, K.H. (1995). “The Relevance of Culture and Values for Community Health Nursing” (ibid.)
8. Spector, R.E. (1996). Cultural Diversity in Health and Illness (4th edition). Stamford, CT: Appleton & Lang.
9. Crow, K. (1993). “Multiculturalism and Pluralistic Thought in Nursing Education: Native American Worldview and the Nursing Academic Worldviews.” Journal of Nursing Education.