Journal of Nursing Education

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Deans in Nursing: How Do They See Their Future?

Beverly A Hall, RN, PhD; Rheba de Tornyay, RN, EdD, FAAN; Betty K Mitsunaga, RN, PhD, FAAN

Abstract

Abstract

One hundred thirty-one deans of autonomous schools of nursing were surveyed in regard to their future career plans. Only one quarter of the sample planned to stay in the deanship until retirement, but they indicated a high degree of satisfaction with their current career choice. The greatest impetus for leaving their position is dissatisfaction with the current position. Extrinsic rewards, such as salary, are not inducements for lateral mobility. Better opportunities for women in academia have created some ambiguity and confusion in regard to the career path beyond the deanship.

Abstract

Abstract

One hundred thirty-one deans of autonomous schools of nursing were surveyed in regard to their future career plans. Only one quarter of the sample planned to stay in the deanship until retirement, but they indicated a high degree of satisfaction with their current career choice. The greatest impetus for leaving their position is dissatisfaction with the current position. Extrinsic rewards, such as salary, are not inducements for lateral mobility. Better opportunities for women in academia have created some ambiguity and confusion in regard to the career path beyond the deanship.

The deanship is regarded as the final career choice for many deans, but there is evidence that it is increasingly being seen as a step on the career ladder to other positions. When we did a study of deans ten years ago (Hall, McKay & Mitsunaga 1971), there were no particular clues indicating that deans were overly concerned with what they would be doing in the future. From the five deans who were interviewed at that time to aid in questionnaire development, and from the large study, we concluded that the deanship was regarded as a lifetime position - once a dean always a dean.

However, over the last decade social changes have affected the longevity of the deanship and the way its permanency is regarded by both the incumbent and others in the organization. Some of the reasons for the change are: 1) the requirement of a doctoral degree, which has prepared many administrators for broader roles such as research, making it more attractive for deans to move back into faculty positions; 2) the women's movement, which has created more interest in hiring women for top level university positions, has engendered higher ambitions in women, and has encouraged women to combine career and family roles at an earlier age; 3) administrative reviews, now mandatory in many universities, which in some cases have taken the decision to remain in the job out of the hands of the position incumbent; and 4) the dean's view of her increased lateral mobility, which has created more movements from one nursing deanship to another.

This article has been developed from data collected on deans of schools of nursing in 1970 and 1980. The purpose of the overall study was to elicit the views of deans on career routes to the deanship, administrative patterns, areas of role conflict, role stress, and future plans. In this article we examine the dean's role in terms of the future directions that her career pattern may take.

As people move through a series of positions in pursuing a career, they form important relationships, gain in skill and knowledge, and change their perspectives on their occupational roles. They make many life style changes to accommodate the new occupational identity. Thus when we study careers, we are concerned with sequences of movements through the occupational hierarchy that are predictable and increasingly prestigious (Wileneky, 1956), and with the changes in values and relationships that accompany occupational mobility (Becker & Strauss, 1965).

Career patterns usually have a specified length and direction (Glasser, 1968). For example, in the dean's position we have found from the data collected that the career process for most deans includes at least two positions between the Master's Degree and the deanship. If the eventual goal of a dean is to be a top level university administrator then a minimum of three positions would intervene.

Timing is another important part of career patterning (Glasser, 1968). The stages in upward mobility require a certain number of years in one position before moving up. Some organizations specify timing exactly, and others depend on less formal means of assessing when it is appropriate to move up. People are subject to failure or criticism if they move too slowly or too fast.

Table

TABLE 1FUTURE OF DEANS IN NURSING IN 1970 AND 1980

TABLE 1

FUTURE OF DEANS IN NURSING IN 1970 AND 1980

Studies of successful women's careers have emphasized that their patterns may be different than men's (Daniels, 1975). They may be less inclined to plan their future, they tend to have more choices to make between home and career, and they suffer from a lack of career socialization, especially the expectation from childhood onward that they will have a career. In timing, women have more "gaps" or lost time in their career patterns and a higher number of years in lower echelon positions than men.

The data that are reported here were collected from all schools of nursing and all deans, directors, and chairpersons of schools of nursing with graduate programs in 1970 and 1980. In 1970, 70 of the 99 deans, or 70% responded while in 1980, 131 or 90% comprised the sample. Deans were mailed a questionnaire that had been developed from interview data. Five deans were interviewed for questionnaire development in 1970 and an additional three in 1980. The category of "Future Plans" was expanded for the 1980 sample because the interviews indicated concern among deans about this area.

Table 1 shows the dean responses on six items in the category of future plans. The major change in the past ten years is the decrease in the number of deans who say that they will be a dean until they retire. Only slightly over one fourth of current deans plan to retire from the dean's position. Since most deans disagree with the statement that it is appropriate for deans to remain on the same faculty in the school in which they were deans, a potential conflict may arise among those who intend to do so. There is a moderately strong positive correlation (r = .386) between items 2 and 6 in Table 1, indicating that those who want to return to faculty positions tend to see it as appropriate.

The major predictors of whether or not a dean will aspire to a top level position in the university is the age of the dean and the number of years in the current deanship. Those who want higher positions tend to be younger and they have been deans for a shorter period of time. It is interesting to note that, although fewer deans plan to stay in the deanship until retirement, they indicate a higher degree of satisfaction with the choice they made than in 1970. Almost three fourths of today's deans say they would still be a dean if they were to begin their careers again.

Table 2 concerns lateral mobility of deans in nursing. We asked them how important each of these items would be in influencing them to accept a dean's position in another school. As can be seen, the greatest impetus for leaving is dissatisfaction with the current position. The only extrinsic reward listed, a salary increase, is not a strong inducement. Only one fourth of deans say they could be lured away by the opportunity to start a new school. The lowest inducement of all is wanting to reduce one's scope of responsibility, indicating that deans do not want to make a move that is downward. The fact that almost 60% of deans would react positi vely to going to schools with excellent reputations and to the idea of new challenges gives us an idea of the rewards that they appear to be looking for in their administrative posts.

Items in the category of future plans and selected demographic factors were submitted to a factor analysis. This statistical procedure identifies sets of variables that relate highly with each other. It detects underlying constructs in the data as well as patterns, so that a great many variables can be reduced to a few. The factor can then be treated as a new variable and given a new name. Four factors, containing 13 items were identified in regard to future plans (Table 3). These were named "The Upwardly Mobüe," "The Conditional Stayers," "The Elders," and "The Retirees." Factor I contains variables that indicate upward mobility. Deans who like challenge in their positions also can be lured to other positions by more responsibility and by higher positions. Deans who are in Factor II tend to come from schools with smaller faculties. They would tend to leave the school only if induced to so do by intolerable conditions and if they felt they had nothing more to accomplish. In Factor III the deans tend to be older and have been administrators longer than the rest. These older deans do not want to move up to higher level positions. The fourth factor indicates that those who have achieved their highest ambition through the deanship are those who want to retire from the position.

Table

TABLE 2FACTORS THAT WOULD INFLUENCE DEANS TO MOVE TO ANOTHER SCHOOL OF NURSING IN 1980 N = 131

TABLE 2

FACTORS THAT WOULD INFLUENCE DEANS TO MOVE TO ANOTHER SCHOOL OF NURSING IN 1980 N = 131

The above analysis revealed only one type of dean who wants to move up to greater responsibility - The Upwardly Mobile. The variables contained in that factor give us an indication of what they want through upward mobility - challenge and increased scope of responsibility as well as the opportunity to be a leader in a school with a good reputation. The other factors represent clusters of variables that are associated with continuity, satisfaction with current achievement, and an indifference to the rewards that might be contained in other positions.

To conclude, fewer deans want to stay in the deanship until retirement today than ten years ago. The data suggest that inducements for leaving a position for most deans are contained in the current position. However, there is a cluster of deans who are seeking challenges and a greater scope of responsibility.

Table

TABLE 3VARIMAX ROTATED FACTOR ANALYSIS OF FUTURE PLANS OF DEANS IN NURSING IN 1980 N = 131

TABLE 3

VARIMAX ROTATED FACTOR ANALYSIS OF FUTURE PLANS OF DEANS IN NURSING IN 1980 N = 131

Interview data indicated that there is a great deal of concern on the part of deans regarding their future. While more and better opportunities can create excitement and challenges, they can also lead to indecision and confusion when clear guidelines for the career path have not been developed. The confusion and ambivalence can better be seen by interview data than by answers on the questionnaire. For example, one interviewee, a dean of a school with a large graduate program indicated her ambivalence when we asked if she had given thought to future career planning.

On one hand, I think rather nostalgically about going back to the classroom and doing research and that kind ofthing. . . but on the other hand, I really enjoy working very closely with university administration. I would consider some kind of broader scope development in administration.

Similarly, another dean of a school with a growing national reputation said:

I think I may stay in the deanship another term (five years) depending on how things are going and if they are going well. I really don't know. I don't know that I want to do anything else. That's part of the problem. I certainly don't know that I want to be at any other school. I will not move to another school as dean. The question is whether it would be better to move into a professional position some place else. I have no desire to be a university administrator.

(Here the interviewer said, "So leaving here would mean returning to a faculty position.")

Absolutely. Or maybe nursing service. I don't know. But I don't want to teach either. At the most I want to teach one seminar.

Planning the career in advance is becoming more characteristic of educational administrators in nursing. In 1970, two thirds of the deans surveyed had never planned to be a dean until they were asked to be one. By 1980 this number had been reduced to one third. Perhaps by 1990 a trend will have developed that will give aspirants to these positions a clear view to the top of their career ladders. Obviously, today's deans must be pathfinders for future nurse administrators in regard to questions of what follows the deanship.

Acknowledgment

This research was supported partially by the University of Indiana, Advance Nursing Training Grant 5079123, Division of Nursing DHEW.

References

  • Becker, H.S., and Strauss, A.L. Careers, personality and adult socialization. American Journal of Sociology, 1965, 62 (11), 253-263.
  • Daniels, A.K. A Survey of Research Concerns on Women's Issues. Washington, D. C: Association of American Colleges, 1975.
  • Glasser, B. G. Organizational Careers: A Sourcebook for Theory. Chicago: Aldine Publishing Co., 1968.
  • Hall, B., McKay, R, and Mitsunaga, B. Deans in nursing: A study of career patterns. In Batey, M. V. (Ed.), Communicating Nursing Research. Boulder, Colorado: WICHE, 1971, pp. 103-106.
  • Wilensky, H. L. Careers, life styles and social integration. International Social Sciences Journal, Fall 1956, 62, 554559.

TABLE 1

FUTURE OF DEANS IN NURSING IN 1970 AND 1980

TABLE 2

FACTORS THAT WOULD INFLUENCE DEANS TO MOVE TO ANOTHER SCHOOL OF NURSING IN 1980 N = 131

TABLE 3

VARIMAX ROTATED FACTOR ANALYSIS OF FUTURE PLANS OF DEANS IN NURSING IN 1980 N = 131

10.3928/0148-4834-19830901-03

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