Growing Your Own

Will Your Associate Degree Nursing Student Consider a Future Faculty Role?

Diana K. Bond, Melvin S. Swanson, and Carol E. Winters-Thornburg

Nursing Education Perspectives


Abstract

Aim: The purpose of the study was to determine the intent of associate degree in nursing (ADN) students to pursue a future nursing faculty role.

Background: Nursing faculty shortages negatively affect the capacity to educate new nurses.

Method: A prospective correlational research design was used to conduct a national survey of ADN students regarding their intent for a future nursing faculty role using constructs of social cognitive career theory.

Results: Twenty-nine percent of participants intended to pursue a future faculty role. The statistically significant predictors of future intent were semesters completed (OR = 2.4), interest in the activities of a faculty role (OR = 2.3), encouragement from faculty (OR= 2.0), outcome expectations-advantages (OR = 1.7), and outcome expectations-disadvantages (OR = 0.7).

Conclusion: Encouraging ADN students toward graduate education and a future faculty role and informing them of all aspects of the role, including advantages and disadvantages, may inspire ADN students toward such a role.


By 2022, at least 24,000 nursing instructors/teachers will be needed because of job growth and replacements (US Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics [DOL], 2013b). Reports from the National League for Nursing (NLN, 2013) have also noted significant vacancies in nursing faculty positions. For example, 28 percent of respondents to the 2014–2015 NLN Faculty Census Survey (NLN, 2015b) reported full-time faculty vacancies for those teaching in associate degree in nursing (ADN) programs. Thirty-seven percent of all respondents to the survey also stated that the main difficulty in hiring new faculty was finding enough qualified candidates (NLN, 2015c).

Without adequate numbers of qualified nursing faculty to prepare new nurses, the health of the populace of the United States will suffer. Because of replacement and new jobs by 2022, a shortage of more than 1 million nurses is anticipated (DOL, 2013a). Yet, qualified nursing students continue to be turned away from undergraduate and graduate programs, including ADN programs. In the NLN Biennial Survey of Schools of Nursing, 78 percent of ADN programs (NLN, 2014a) turned away qualified students. This number represented 37 percent of the qualified students who applied for admission to ADN programs (NLN, 2014b).

One of the primary reasons for the nurse faculty shortage is the aging of faculty. In 2009, 22 percent of professors and 12 percent of associate professors indicated their age as greater than 60 years (NLN, 2009). More recently, in 2015, 42 percent of professors and 28 percent of associate professors indicated their age as greater than 61 years (NLN, 2015a), more than double in six years.

A second reason for the nurse faculty shortage is low salaries. According to DOL reports, registered nurses earn a national average of $72,180 (median $68,450; DOL, 2016b), whereas nursing instructors earn a national average of $75,030 (median 69,130; DOL, 2016a) — little difference despite the educational preparation required of academic faculty.

Lastly, nurses do not pursue advanced education in the numbers required to fill faculty roles. Nurses who begin their career with an ADN are more likely to pursue a baccalaureate degree (National Council of State Boards of Nursing [NCSBN], 2013), but not graduate degrees. Of nurses with master's degrees, only 19 percent began their nursing career with an ADN; of respondents with a research-focused doctorate degree, only 15 percent began with their ADN (NCSBN, 2013). When pursuing graduate education, nurses do not choose nursing education. Among nurses pursuing a master's degree, only 13 percent chose nursing education (Fang, Li, Kennedy, & Trautman, 2017), a decrease from 18 percent who chose nursing education just five years before (Fang, Hu, & Bednash, 2011). Of students graduating with a research-focused doctorate, only 50 percent indicated an intent to work in academia (Fang et al., 2011). The recruitment of nurses into graduate degree programs and encouraging the faculty role are clearly important.

Bieber and Worley (2006) found that the undergraduate years may be the most influential for making a decision to pursue a faculty career; however, their qualitative study was not of nursing students, but students from a variety of professions in a doctoral program. Little is known about how ADN students may view the pursuit of a future nursing faculty role. The purpose of this study was to determine the intent of ADN students to pursue a future nurse faculty role and the variables that may influence this choice. The research questions that guided this study were as follows:

  1. What proportion of ADN students intend to pursue a future faculty role and graduate nursing education?
  2. Do theoretical constructs (person inputs, distal and proximal backgrounds, self-efficacy, learning experiences, outcome expectations, and interests in the activities of a nursing faculty role) predict intent to pursue a future nurse faculty role?

Theoretical Approach

Little research or theoretical approaches were found about faculty career choice among ADN students. In nursing, McGregor (2007) used the social cognitive career theory (SCCT), a middle-range theory, to examine student choice for a career in nursing. Bond (2017) used the SCCT to frame the research on intent for a future faculty role among prelicensure baccalaureate nursing students.

The SCCT, derived from Bandura's social cognitive theory, has been used to investigate career choice in college students, especially those majoring in science, technology, engineering, or math (Lent, Brown, & Hackett, 2000). Because of its broad base and multiple constructs (Rojewski, 2005), previously described by Bond (2017), the SCCT was selected for this study. SCCT constructs from Lent (2005) are listed, and their uses in this study are shown parenthetically: person inputs (age, gender, race/ethnicity); distal background (parent education and either parent as educator, RN, or health care professional); proximal background (type of nursing program, semesters/quarters of clinical nursing education completed, supports/barriers to pursuing a nurse faculty role); self-efficacy (belief about one's capabilities to succeed in a nurse faculty role); learning experiences(previous teaching experiences, having nurse faculty member role model in teaching, and receiving faculty encouragement to pursue faculty role); outcome expectations (students' perceptions about advantages/disadvantages of a nurse faculty role); interests (like, dislike, or indifference regarding the activities performed by faculty members); and outcome variable, career choice goal (intent to pursue future nurse faculty role and graduate education).

Method

A prospective, correlational research design was used to determine what proportion of ADN students intend to pursue a future nurse faculty role (career choice goal) and the requisite graduate education, and whether SCCT constructs predict intent to pursue a future nurse faculty role. Participants were a convenience sample of students enrolled in an ADN program who were members of the National Student Nurses' Association (NSNA). As reported by Bond (2017), staff from the NSNA sent a one-time email to their membership with a link to the online survey. NSNA members are prenursing or nursing students who are enrolled in a state-approved diploma, associate degree, baccalaureate, generic master's, or RN-to-BSN programs (NSNA, n.d., p. 2). Data from students enrolled in ADN programs were analyzed for this report; data analyzed from BSN prelicensure nursing students were previously reported (Bond, 2017).

Analysis of data included: a) descriptive measures of central tendency, b) Cronbach's alpha reliability coefficients for the measures, and c) logistic regression analysis. An a priori power analysis indicated that 22 independent variables with a moderate effect size (R2 = .15), a minimum power of .80, and an alpha of .05 required a minimum sample size of 163 (Soper, 2010).

Instruments

As previously reported (Bond, 2017), the online survey explained the importance of the survey, requested students' assistance, explained why nursing students were chosen, and was sent by a sponsor (NSNA) recognizable by nursing students; these are some of the recommendations for online surveys (Dillman, Smyth, & Christian, 2009). The survey had 89 items, researcher-created questions and questions from instruments used in other studies. A pilot was conducted to determine the survey's functionality; the estimated time to take the survey was approximately 17 minutes.

As explained by Bond (2017), the support and barrier items were adapted with permission (Lent et al., 2005). Career choice was used instead of college major, directions were clarified, and the response choices were changed to “not at all likely” and “extremely likely” from “strongly disagree” and “strongly agree.” Higher scores indicated more support or more barriers. Previous studies reported Cronbach's alpha coefficients of .82 to .90 (supports) and .77 to .84 (barriers) and validity supported through structural equation modeling (Lent et al., 2003, 2005 Lent, Lopez, Lopez, & Sheu, 2008). In this study, Cronbach's alpha coefficients were .82 (supports) and .66 (barriers).

The Inspiration and Modeling Subscale of the Influence of Others on Academic and Career Decisions Scale (Nauta & Kokaly, 2001) was used to measure role modeling. It was adapted, with permission, to indicate role modeling by nurse faculty. Students rated their level of agreement with each statement from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree”; higher scores indicated stronger perception of role modeling. Three items were reverse-worded and were reverse-scored during analysis. Nauta and Kokaly (2001) reported Cronbach's alpha coefficients of .85 to .91 and established validity of the scale. In this study, the Cronbach's alpha coefficient was .86.

The Outcome Expectations Scale (Lent et al., 2005), which contained only advantages, was adapted, with permission; 10 advantage and disadvantage statements specific to nursing obtained from a literature search were added (Bond, 2011). Students rated the items from “not at all likely” to “extremely likely.” Higher scores indicated more advantages or more disadvantages. Cronbach's alpha coefficients of .91 to .92 were reported, and validity was established through structural equation modeling (Lent et al., 2003, 2005, 2008). In this study, Cronbach's alpha coefficients were .92 (advantages) and .83 (disadvantages).

Bandura (2006) and Lent and Brown (2006) state that the measure of self-efficacy must be tailored to the specific concept of interest. Therefore, the researcher created questions to determine self-efficacy for a future faculty role. Students rated their ability to learn each faculty role from “no confidence” to “complete confidence”; higher scores indicated higher levels of self-efficacy. In this study, the Cronbach's alpha coefficient was .87.

The researcher also created questions to measure interest in the activities of a faculty role, rated as “very low interest” to “very high interest”; higher scores indicated more interest in the activities performed in a nurse faculty role. In this study, the Cronbach's alpha coefficient was .91.

Career choice goal (intent) for a future faculty role and graduate education, the outcome variables, were measured by rating level of agreement from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree”; higher scores indicated stronger intent. Students were asked how long in years they needed to work as a clinical nurse prior to becoming faculty, how long before they pursued graduate education, and the highest academic degree they expected to attain. Students were also asked if taking the survey increased their likelihood of pursuing a future faculty role. See Table 1 for variables and their measurement.

For the sample, the total mean for the nine support items was 3.96 (SD = 0.64, range 1–5). The highest rated item was “to feel that close friends or relatives would be proud of you for making this decision” (M = 4.26, SD = 0.91). The lowest rated item was “to feel that there are people ‘like you’ in this field” (M = 3.59, SD = 1.12). For the seven barrier items, the overall mean was 2.10 (SD = 0.62, range 1–5). The highest rated item was “to feel that financing graduate education would be difficult” (M = 3.55, SD = 1.34); the lowest rated item was “to receive negative comments or discouragement about your choice from your friends” (M = 1.28, SD = 0.72).

The overall mean for the nine self-efficacy items was 6.60 (SD = 1.64, range 0–9). Students rated “serve as an advisor to students” (M = 7.10, SD = 2.04) the highest and “teach in an online setting” (M = 5.76, SD = 2.49) the lowest.

The most common teaching experience was peer teaching (n = 344, 35 percent) and peer tutoring (n = 333, 34 percent). Overall, students rated most of the teaching experiences as positive (range 2–6). “Peer tutoring” was rated the highest (M = 4.43, SD = 0.59), and “other teaching experiences” was rated the lowest (M = 4.12, SD = 0.90).

Students were positive about the role model influence of nurse faculty. With an overall mean of 3.64 (SD = 0.81, range 1–5) for the seven role model items, the most positive response was to the statement, “There is someone I admire among the nursing faculty” (M = 4.18, SD = 0.90). Students disagreed with the negative statements about nurse faculty and were most strongly in disagreement with “among the nursing faculty, there is no one who inspires me” (M = 1.93, SD = 1.06).

Students had been encouraged to pursue a future faculty role (M = 3.11, SD = 1.18, range 1–5). A slight majority (n = 228, 39 percent) strongly agreed or agreed with the statement, “I have received encouragement from nursing faculty to pursue a future nursing faculty role.” Some students disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement (n = 197, 33 percent).

The overall mean for the 15 outcome expectations-advantage items to become a faculty member was 3.71 (n = 589, SD = 0.82, range 0–5). Students rated the following advantages the highest: “make a contribution to nursing” (n = 586, M = 4.24, SD = 0.99) and “do work that can make a difference in people's lives” (n = 588, M = 4.24, SD = 0.99). Students rated “to earn an attractive salary” (n = 578, M = 2.89, SD = 1.38) the lowest. The overall mean for the five outcome expectations-disadvantage items had a mean of 1.89 (n = 576, SD = 1.09, range 0–5). The highest rated disadvantage was “have a workload that is too heavy” (n = 559, M = 2.30, SD= 1.37).

The overall mean for the nine interests in the activities/tasks of a faculty role items was 2.98 (n= 586, SD = 1.15, range 1–5). Students rated “advising students” (n = 582, M = 3.63, SD = 1.37) and “teaching and guiding learners” (n = 583, M = 3.54, SD = 1.43) the highest. They were least interested in “writing and publishing nursing research findings in academic/clinical journals” (n = 571, M = 2.41, SD = 1.64) and “attending a variety of departmental and institutional meetings” (n = 575, M = 2.54, SD = 1.51).

Results

Twenty-nine percent of the ADN student participants (n = 171) agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, “In the future, I intend to pursue a faculty role”; 46 percent (n = 270) were unsure, and 25 percent (n = 149) disagreed or strongly disagreed. The sample was subsequently divided into two groups for further analysis: those who agreed/strongly agreed (high-intent students, n = 171) and those who disagreed, strongly disagreed, or were unsure (unsure, low-intent students, n = 419).

When answering the question, “How many years do you believe you need to work as a nurse before becoming a faculty member,” most high-intent students (n = 171, 29 percent) chose a range of 1 to 15 years (M = 5.9 years, SD = 3.06). Of the 171 students reporting high intent, 160 (94 percent) also reported high intent to pursue graduate education, 10 were unsure, and one strongly disagreed. The largest percentage of high-intent students aspired to earn a master's degree in nursing (n = 100, 59 percent); 30 percent (n = 51) aspired to earn a doctorate degree in nursing. The majority planned to pursue graduate education in an average of 3.3 years (SD = 1.90, range 1–12).

In determining whether the SCCT constructs predicted intent to pursue a future faculty role, 11 predictor variables met the cut point for significance of .05 and were included in the logistic model. The variables were race, supports, barriers, self-efficacy for a faculty role, teaching experience, faculty role modeling, encouragement to pursue a faculty role, outcome expectations-advantages, outcome expectations-disadvantages, number of semesters completed, and interest in the activities/tasks of a faculty member. See Table 3 for the results of high-intent and unsure, low-intent students on each variable.

 

Discussion

In the literature, no reports were found on whether ADN students had been asked about their intent for a future faculty role. Therefore, it was unexpected that 29 percent (n = 171) of the ADN students in this study stated their intent to pursue a future faculty role after practicing as a nurse for an average of six years. Bond (2017) also found a similar number (25 percent) of BSN students with intent for a future faculty role and similar years to work as a nurse prior to pursuing the role. Many ADN students provided comments about a future faculty role. For example, one student stated, “Maybe there should be more courses targeted to nurses interested in teaching. That being said, nursing education is something I could see myself doing down the road, if I had adequate time and funds.”

For ADN students to consider a future faculty role, we must provide earlier and longer range career counseling and encourage enrollment in graduate nursing programs, giving credit for past academic studies wherever possible. For example, in this study, and not surprising, 55 percent of the students were over 30 years of age, and 25 percent (n = 150) had completed a baccalaureate degree prior to enrolling in the ADN program. As one student stated, “At my age I simply think I will not have enough time to develop the depth of experience that make faculty respected as experts in their field. I will be 50 when I graduate.”

The further along the students were in their nursing programs, the more likely they would choose a career as a nursing faculty member. By the time nursing students have completed four or more semesters, they have had the opportunity to observe their teachers as role models engaged in positive tasks of teaching and advising. After four semesters, students were more likely to have been encouraged by their faculty to obtain graduate education. Of the high-intent students, 59 percent indicated the master's degree was the highest academic degree to which they aspired; 30 percent aspired to doctorate degrees in nursing.

In their 10-year longitudinal study, Bevill, Cleary, Lacey, and Nooney (2007) found that most nursing students only increased their academic degrees by one. Because many of the students had previous baccalaureate degrees prior to their ADN program, perhaps they see graduate education as more attainable than past ADN students. We encourage faculty to determine their students' aspirations for graduate school and to provide them with realistic options for continuing their academic pursuits. What better time than when students are close to completing their prelicensure education for faculty members to describe their own educational journeys and rewarding experiences as teachers of future nurses?

It seems obvious that high-intent students would also have a high interest in the activities of a faculty role. Among the individual items about interests in a future faculty role, each of the following differentiated between the high- and low-intent students: teaching and guiding learners, serving on committees, developing courses, and evaluating learning. Students relayed positive experiences in teaching a group of their peers or tutoring one-on-one, such as, “I love teaching. There is nothing like explaining a difficult concept and watching the light come on in a student's eyes as they grasp what you are teaching them. Then, to watch them take that knowledge and apply it is even better!” Another student stated, “The peers I taught were tested on the material I taught and everyone passed. Also, they were asked to fill out a survey to state what they thought of my teaching and nearly all were satisfied with my teaching ability.”

Although not significant in the logistic regression model, having had past teaching experiences was individually significant between the high- and low-intent students. Faculty may provide students with teaching experiences, linking such experiences to their future faculty role and pointing out the intrinsic rewards of teaching. Unless faculty can invite, entice, expedite, and support graduating nursing students' committing to become faculty members by promptly entering graduate school (while concurrently practicing), it is unlikely that we will meet the projected need for 24,000 nursing instructors/teachers by 2022 (DOL, 2013b).

What was unexpected was how knowledgeable students were about the advantages and disadvantages of the faculty role; many of the advantages were rated highly. High regard for the role of faculty to positively impact future individuals, patients, and nursing has been reported in studies of students (Bond, 2017 Seldomridge, 2004) and faculty (Brady, 2007 Evans, 2013). It is time to encourage ADN students for a future faculty role and the requisite academic requirements. Twenty-four percent of high-intent students were influenced by taking the survey. It is unclear whether the survey served as a proxy for encouragement or if it provided knowledge about the faculty role, which had not been considered.

It is also worth noting that 46 percent (n = 270) of the students were unsure about a future faculty role. Of these unsure students, 72 percent (n = 195) reported medium to high interest in the faculty role. Seldomridge (2004) found 22 percent of students were undecided after a teaching intervention, and Bond (2011) found 45 percent of baccalaureate nursing students were unsure about a future faculty role. With encouragement and knowledge of the role, unsure students may also become recruits to the academy. It is time for targeted interventions and repeated and long-term studies.

Limitations

The sample was a convenience sample, so we do not know the responses of those who did not take the survey. The number of responding students was higher for Caucasian, older, and female students than that reported by the NLN (2016a 2016b 2016c). Because the sample was from NSNA, students might be more academically inclined than the general population of ADN students. In addition, the response to the survey, although large, represented only 1 percent of NSNA members. Though many of the measures had known reliability and validity in the general college student population, they had not been tested, until this study, with nursing students.

Conclusion

The constructs of SCCT were used to investigate the intent of ADN students for a future faculty role. The significant constructs in the model were semesters in nursing school, interest in the faculty role, faculty encouragement, and outcome expectations (advantages and disadvantages). Although not statistically significant in the model, other constructs were individually significant and should be further explored, such as race, teaching experience, supports, barriers, self-efficacy, and role modeling. The construct of teaching experience might lend itself to intervention studies. It is further recommended that replication with the same and different student groups be initiated and include longitudinal studies.


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