Diversity in the nursing faculty has been an ongoing topic of discussion. Over the last year, there has been a degree of discourse in the United States. Many universities created or are in the process of creating position statements for diversity, equity, and inclusion. The question is, why did we have to wait? Why not be proactive instead of being reactive?
At my alma mater, Norfolk State University, a historically Black university, I was welcomed with open arms, not just from the nursing faculty but all faculty. It resonates with the student and self-efficacy when they can see people who look like them, who have reached the goals they are attempting to achieve.
As an African-American nursing faculty member for RN, MSN, Nurse Practitioner, and DNP students, my goal is to help my students reach their goals. It is a bonus to help inspire a person of color that may not have felt the encouragement of their counterparts.
While I am here to make a difference, there still are challenges that I face as a doctorate-prepared professor, where I am not treated equitably. Researchers Christine Salvucci and Carolyn A. Lawless reported in the Journal of Cultural Diversity in 2016 that minority faculty of color have unique experiences, which has an impact on interpersonal relationships and the professional components of their career compared with White colleagues. In some of the articles that were reviewed, there was a review of topics that included “Insincerity and Putting You in Your Place,” “Invalidation of Sense of Self,” and “Unequal Standards.” As some of my colleagues of color and I have discussed and experienced these topics, the aforementioned topics resonate with me. There is increasing diversity in the students that are presenting to advance their education. How can we begin to retrospectively attempt to address diversity, equity, and inclusion for the students, and we have not properly addressed for the faculty? We have to do better. More research is required, and change is necessary.
In May 2015, I joined the faculty at the University of Florida College of Nursing (UF CON) as an associate professor. Fourteen months later, I became a single adoptive mother to a newborn. My successful journey through single motherhood while balancing my academic responsibilities was due, in large part, to the overwhelming support I received from the entire body of the CON including the dean, department chair, faculty, staff, and students.
Working From Home
When I think about the reaction of my senior colleagues when I shared the news that I adopted a newborn, I am in awe. My department chair was elated, and after congratulating me, the first words she uttered were,“Miriam, you have my support. I am here to provide you with whatever resources you need to succeed at motherhood and your academic career. You can take maternity leave, work from home to direct your research, teach online, and teleconference as needed.” Before I could respond, my department chair excitedly went next door to inform the dean, who glowed with joy about my news, grabbed my hands, and stated emphatically, “You are taking maternity leave.” I was stunned.
I was surprised about the reactions I received from the administrators because I was not sure what to expect. I was a newly hired associate professor trying to build my research program following relocation from another institution. Because I was a relatively new hire, I was afraid they would express misgivings about my status as a single mother with no family support, which might affect my productivity as an employee; however, these fears were not realized. Although the administrators strongly encouraged me to take maternity leave, I opted to work primarily from home and hire a babysitter to assist me, who cared for my son when I travelled to campus to teach and to attend research team meetings. Incredibly, senior colleagues encouraged me to bring my son to our hour-long meetings and to classes after students requested it. As a result of their kind support, I brought my son to research team meetings, where my colleagues enjoyed meeting him, and to class, where my students happily posed for photos with my son and me.
Was it Unprofessional to Bring a Baby to Work?
Despite the tremendous support I received to bring my son to the CON, at times, I felt that it was unprofessional. Realizing that I was projecting upon myself the negative stereotypes about motherhood and child-rearing, I asked myself several key questions: What is unprofessional about being a mother? What is unprofessional about role modeling to my son the importance of strong work ethics? What is unprofessional about exposing a baby to intellectuals who are positive role models? I surmised that exposing my son to an environment replete with kind, smart, and diligent professionals could only help him learn the behaviors he needs to become successful in life.
It has been nineteen months since I started my motherhood journey, and I am still breathless about the kindness and support I received and continue to receive from my colleagues. Knowing that I had the option of taking maternity leave as well as the full support of the administrators who were not concerned about my productivity was reassuring.
His Majesty, Kasi, Among Nurses By Miriam O. Ezenwa, PhD, RN
Nurses, my Angels
They gather to do what they do best
Fix the ills around the world
Care for those needing their healing presence
Enters, His Majesty, Kasi, drawing attention
Heads turn left and back, eyes twinkle starry-like
Smiles everywhere, hearts blooming light
Love! Love in the air for His Majesty
Calm nurses, my Angels, research retreat in progress
Work in teams, way of the future
Stand strong, hands locked in place
Embrace people from far and wide
Including those who don’t look alike
We are stronger in the spirit of the rainbow
Need to rest from the trip to here
Nurse Karen holding tight, heart pumping peace
The future is smart for His Majesty, nurses’ wisdom grows in strength
His Majesty needs a diaper change
Nurse Jeanne-Marie and nurse mommy to the rescue
Now, where were we?
Back to fixing the world
How about fixing how we secure our existence?
Many ways of teaching, the more the merrier, the merrier the better
Sleepy-sleepy, growth in rapid measure
Uncle Yingwei got this one, his manly touch is much needed
Once! Twice! Hunger and starvation
Hurry Mommy! Tummy thunders, feels like no end in sight
Mommy doting, needs now met
Sorry for my interruptions, I am just a baby
To resume business, let’s take stock
Goals are important, set now, assess in time
We are nurses, born to fix ills, from birth to death
Yes, nurses fix ills all the time
His Majesty needs a break, nap is golden
Nurse Versie won the prize, His Majesty is a treasure
Mommy close by inspecting every touch
New mommy, but instincts never fail
Back to research retreat, His Majesty is listening
Teams assembled, lead authors identified. Here! Here!
Oh no! Nature calls again, can’t ignore
Nurse Cindi in charge this time
Mommy always in tow, my bag in hand
Back again to wrap up, day went well
We must tell our story, stir the soul
His Majesty must depart now
The throne at home beckons, Queen Mommy in charge
Car must be readied, His Majesty commands comfort
Uncle Yingwei again to help, he has been there from day one
Goodbye, nurses. His Majesty must retreat
Till we meet again, a year from now
Assess your outcomes, inform His Majesty
Did I say that nurses are great?
Lest I forget, nurses are magnificent
You are my tribe, away from home
His Majesty, Kasi, enjoyed your company
Spread the word, it takes a tribe
A tribe of nurses, best any time
It helped me focus on enjoying motherhood and have the peace of mind related to a secure livelihood. I remind myself of how blessed I am for the inherent flexibility of my academic position. This feeling of gratitude propels me to work harder so that I do not disappoint myself or the trust the administrators bestowed upon me, to find an appropriate work-life balance required for success in academia.
My Tribe Away From Home
When my son was six weeks old, the CON had a faculty research retreat, and although I did not have a babysitter, I did not want to miss the retreat. I talked to my department chair about this problem, and she suggested that I bring my son to the retreat. The entire faculty in attendance surprised me with their support. At that moment, I knew that I had found my tribe at the UF CON even though I was 6,000 miles away from my home country, Nigeria. I captured the interactions between my son and my newly found tribe in the poem, His Majesty, Kasi, Among Nurses.
Take Home Message
Current knowledge suggests that many mothers in academia struggle to succeed as they balance motherhood and academic responsibilities. These challenges could be quadrupled for single mothers in academia who are immigrants and who may not have family support. I experienced many challenges being a single adoptive mother, particularly on the days that my son was sick; however, I always had the help of my colleagues, who personally assisted me in caring for him. Their support enabled me to excel at motherhood and my faculty role, and I am immensely grateful for this support. Based on my positive experiences, I encourage other universities around the United States to emulate the actions of the UF CON administrators and support mothers in academia as they balance two important aspects of their lives: motherhood and an academic career.
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.
Although many nursing schools around the country have successfully increased the racial and ethnic diversity of their student populations, there is still a severe shortage of minority nursing faculty. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, less than 10% of the nation’s nursing educators are people of color. Even worse, many of these minority professors are rapidly nearing retirement age. How can nursing education meet the needs of a more culturally diverse generation of students when there just aren’t enough culturally diverse faculty to go around?
One school that has come up with an innovative solution to the minority faculty shortage is the School of Nursing at Thomas Edison State College in Trenton, N.J. The college has received a $600,000 grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to recruit and prepare minority nurse educators for online teaching. Training existing minority faculty to teach in distance learning programs will make these educators accessible to more students from all over the country, especially those in remote or rural areas. It will also help reduce the retirement brain drain by enabling minority faculty to extend their tenure in the profession, at least on a part-time basis, after they reach retirement age.
The school plans to recruit 45 minority nurse educators for the program during the next three years. Candidates must have an MSN degree or higher and will complete the college’s 32-week Certificate in Distance Education Program. Upon completion, they will teach one 12-week online nursing course at the college and will then be able to bring their distance education skills back to their own local institutions. The grant will also be used to create a database of minority distance educators, which will be made available to nursing schools throughout the country.
“The potential benefit of educating minority nurse faculty in online pedagogy is vast,” says Susan O’Brien, EdD, RN, dean of the School of Nursing at Thomas Edison State College. “We anticipate that the number of students and nursing schools impacted by this program will increase exponentially as the minority nurse educators recruited and educated through this grant begin to use and share their online skills.” If you’re an eligible nurse educator interested in participating in this program, contact the college at [email protected].
Despite the efforts of many of the nation’s nursing schools to recruit more minorities and men into their faculty ranks over the past year, a new report from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) paints a disappointing picture of the continued lack of diversity in the world of nursing academia.
According to the recently published 2001-2002 edition of Salaries of Instructional and Administrative Nursing Faculty in Baccalaureate and Graduate Programs in Nursing, a survey of more than 500 schools nationwide, America’s full-time nursing faculty as a whole continues to be 90% Caucasian and 96% female, showing virtually no change from 2000-2001. Moreover, the racial homogeneity of nursing educators is evident across the board: 91.7% of administrative faculty and 90.2% of instructional faculty are white, respectively.
As for the racial and gender diversity of nursing school deans, the numbers are even worse. The survey’s companion volume, 2001-2002 Salaries of Deans in Baccalaureate and Graduate Programs in Nursing, reports that 92.6% of deans are white and 97.6% are women.
However, the two surveys do contain some good news when it comes to faculty salary trends. Mean salaries for full-time nursing faculty at nearly all ranks and degree levels rose modestly in the 2001-2002 academic year. Salaries ranged from a low of $24,545 for instructors without doctoral degrees teaching in private institutions to a high of $165,556 for doctorally prepared professors at public institutions.
The biggest salary increases were reported by nondoctorally prepared assistant professors (up 4.2%, to $45,531) and nondoctorally prepared associate professors (up 4%, to $49, 411). The only faculty members whose salaries decreased last year were nondoctorally prepared professors (down 5.5% to $59,029) and doctorally prepared instructors (a less steep drop of 1.5%, down to $43,865).
Deans’ salaries also increased slightly in the 2001-2002 calendar year. Mean salaries reached $99,945 for AACN-member deans (up 2.3% from the previous year) and $69,492 for nonmember deans (a 0.05% increase).
To order copies of the salary surveys, contact the AACN at (202) 463-6930 or visit the Web site www.aacn.nche.edu.