Journal of Nursing Education

Professional Role Synthesis for Nursing Faculty: A Redefinition of Faculty Practice

Cynthia A Neely, MS, RN; Sheila Reihing Truby, MS, RN; Joanne A Shaughnessy, MS, RNC, FNP; Elizabeth R Barker, MSN, RNC, FNP; Margaret A Burkhardt, MSN, RNC, FNP; Mary Gail Nagai-Jacobson, MSN, RN; Frances G Snodgrass, MS, RN; Jan Youngblood, MPH, RN

Abstract

The synthesis of theory, education, practice, and research in faculty role is an important consideration for nursing educators. Through this synthesis the best possible structure becomes available for the generation of theory. Menke (1978) called for the academic community to assume a leadership position in theory development. Nursing faculty role is the implementation of professional nurse role within a school of nursing environment which interacts with the nursing role variables of theory, education, research and practice. The faculty role model, based on the triad of nursing and utilized by a committed faculty, offers a congruent and orderly manner for accomplishing the goals of developing nursing theory grounded in practice, evaluating this theory by research and educating students.

Professional Nurse Role

The model of professional role utilizes the three subconcepts of education, practice, and research of the triad of nursing integrated by the practitioner's theory base (Figure 1). The professional role of nursing is clarified by examining and defining the interrelationships among the roles of the triad. Understanding the interdependence among the components of the triad lays the foundation for defining nursing faculty role.

The interrelationships between theory, research, education, and practice are adequately explained in the literature (Bilitski, 1981; Fawcett, 1980). Theory is specifically related to research by directing the observations made about the world. These observations are tested for accuracy by research methodologies that are consistent with the theory. This research redefines the theory either by validating it, modifying it, or rejecting it. Empirical facts are analyzed in light of the theoretical base. It is in this way that theory is evaluated, thus providing the knowledge base for a practice discipline (Fawcett, 1978).

Professional Role Synthesis Within School of Nursing Environment

The relationship of education to theory and research is understood by examining the role obligation of a professional nurse to teach and to learn. The professional nurse teaches clients and health professionals about health as defined within that nurse's theory base. Simultaneously, there exists an obligation to expand one's knowledge related to health, client, environment, and nursing. Through formal education, research, clinical experience with clients, and dialogue with other health professionals, education is a catalyst for developing and testing new ideas and disseminating that knowledge to others.

Nursing practice is the caring for clients through the operationalization of theory, research, and education. Theory is built and tested and subsequently changes and guides the clinical practice of nurses. Theory guides practice by determining the observations the nurse makes, how the observations are organized and given meaning, how decisions are made, what is done, and what is evaluated. Practice provides the environment for observations to be made, research questions generated, and data collected. Practice also provides the setting where professional nurses teach and utilize new knowledge.

Placing the professional nurse role within a school of nursing subjects the development of nurse role to the influence of the many factors which are part of the immediate environment of the school of nursing. The focus, scope, and outcomes of professional nurse role are shaped by the mission, the philosophy, the conceptual framework, the goals, and the administrative structure of the school. The values that determine the contingencies placed upon nursing faculty stem from this immediate environment.

The following model describes the implementation of professional nurse role within a school of nursing environment. The conceptual framework, developed from the philosophy, guides nursing faculty role. Therefore education, research and practice are considered in relationship to the conceptual framework (Figure 2).

Conceptual frameworks are currently advocated as a way to systematically order nursing phenomena (Bilitski, 1981) so that the education of students is conceptually based…

The synthesis of theory, education, practice, and research in faculty role is an important consideration for nursing educators. Through this synthesis the best possible structure becomes available for the generation of theory. Menke (1978) called for the academic community to assume a leadership position in theory development. Nursing faculty role is the implementation of professional nurse role within a school of nursing environment which interacts with the nursing role variables of theory, education, research and practice. The faculty role model, based on the triad of nursing and utilized by a committed faculty, offers a congruent and orderly manner for accomplishing the goals of developing nursing theory grounded in practice, evaluating this theory by research and educating students.

Professional Nurse Role

The model of professional role utilizes the three subconcepts of education, practice, and research of the triad of nursing integrated by the practitioner's theory base (Figure 1). The professional role of nursing is clarified by examining and defining the interrelationships among the roles of the triad. Understanding the interdependence among the components of the triad lays the foundation for defining nursing faculty role.

The interrelationships between theory, research, education, and practice are adequately explained in the literature (Bilitski, 1981; Fawcett, 1980). Theory is specifically related to research by directing the observations made about the world. These observations are tested for accuracy by research methodologies that are consistent with the theory. This research redefines the theory either by validating it, modifying it, or rejecting it. Empirical facts are analyzed in light of the theoretical base. It is in this way that theory is evaluated, thus providing the knowledge base for a practice discipline (Fawcett, 1978).

Professional Role Synthesis Within School of Nursing Environment

The relationship of education to theory and research is understood by examining the role obligation of a professional nurse to teach and to learn. The professional nurse teaches clients and health professionals about health as defined within that nurse's theory base. Simultaneously, there exists an obligation to expand one's knowledge related to health, client, environment, and nursing. Through formal education, research, clinical experience with clients, and dialogue with other health professionals, education is a catalyst for developing and testing new ideas and disseminating that knowledge to others.

Nursing practice is the caring for clients through the operationalization of theory, research, and education. Theory is built and tested and subsequently changes and guides the clinical practice of nurses. Theory guides practice by determining the observations the nurse makes, how the observations are organized and given meaning, how decisions are made, what is done, and what is evaluated. Practice provides the environment for observations to be made, research questions generated, and data collected. Practice also provides the setting where professional nurses teach and utilize new knowledge.

FIGURE 1

FIGURE 1

FIGURE 2Nursing Faculty Role

FIGURE 2

Nursing Faculty Role

FIGURE 3

FIGURE 3

Placing the professional nurse role within a school of nursing subjects the development of nurse role to the influence of the many factors which are part of the immediate environment of the school of nursing. The focus, scope, and outcomes of professional nurse role are shaped by the mission, the philosophy, the conceptual framework, the goals, and the administrative structure of the school. The values that determine the contingencies placed upon nursing faculty stem from this immediate environment.

The following model describes the implementation of professional nurse role within a school of nursing environment. The conceptual framework, developed from the philosophy, guides nursing faculty role. Therefore education, research and practice are considered in relationship to the conceptual framework (Figure 2).

Conceptual frameworks are currently advocated as a way to systematically order nursing phenomena (Bilitski, 1981) so that the education of students is conceptually based in an integrated manner throughout the course of theoretical and clinical study. As factor-isolating, first level theories that are utilized to identify and define major concepts (Bilitski, 1981), conceptual frameworks serve to unify the "private images" of nursing (Reilly, 1975) so that individual faculty can work toward a common goal. When faculty members are engaged in the faculty practice role, their practices reflect the same conceptual base from which they teach.

Nursing faculty are able to identify descriptive research that defines major concepts for the purpose of evaluating the conceptual framework. Thus, there will be continuous movement from the framework stage to the conceptual model stage whereby relationships can be demonstrated that explain nursing phenomena (Bilitski, 1981). This research impacts and alters practice and education.

Faculty practice delivers services and contributes clinical observations in an effort to further define the conceptual framework. The practice component assumes a wider focus than client care, consistent with the understanding of the relationships of education, practice, and research. The focus expands to include contributions to the development of nursing theory. This description of the practice component within nursing faculty role is unique since published definitions of faculty practice address faculty practice as separate from nursing faculty role.

Toward a Redefinition of Faculty Practice

Collison and Parsons (1980) provide both a broad definition (faculty practice includes selected care faculty members carry out while in the clinical area with students) and a narrow definition (faculty members give total patient care to clients within a variety of clinical practice arrangements). Anderson and Pierson (1983) define faculty practice as the "clinical practices involving faculty members with the health care of clients" (p. 132). These practices might be facilitated through a college of nursing health service, dual appointment, joint appointment, moonlighting, or summer clinical employment. Faculty practice, as defined in the literature, includes any practice beyond the clinical teaching role. Christman (1979) defines the faculty practitioner as a practitioner-teacher who delivers health care to clients by primary nursing on a hospital unit. The practitioner "shares patients" with students clinically while contributing to seminars and staff development.

These definitions do not clearly differentiate faculty practice from the advanced practice of nursing. If there are differences, other than nursing faculty practicing nursing, those components that are unique to faculty practice are not identified. The American Nurses' Association's Social Policy Statement (1980) defines the specialist in nursing as "a nurse who, through study and supervised practice at the graduate level (master's or doctorate), has become expert in a defined area of knowledge and practice in a selected clinical area of nursing." The policy statement further describes the professional role of the specialist, i.e., the advanced practitioner, as including those activities of continuing education, conducting research, and publishing to advance the profession. The definitions of faculty practice presented in the preceding paragraph indicate that faculty practice is equated with the health care of clients by a faculty member. These definitions reflect only the practice component of the advanced practitioner role.

The objectives of faculty practice include: testing nursing theory and developing clinical research (Chicadonz, Bush, Korthuis & Utz, 1981; Spero, 1980 », providing clinical role models for students and others (Archer & Fleshman, 1981; Chicadonz, et al., 1981; Rauen, 1974; Spero, 1980), increasing clinical expertise (Chicadonz, et al., 1981), enhancing collégial relationships with other health profession' als (Chicadonz, et al., 1981), and providing an increased income (Chicadonz, et al., 1981). An exploratory study of faculty practice (Anderson & Pierson, 1983) reports outcomes of the current faculty practitioners. The majority of practitioners are not engaged in research/publication. The least important reasons for practice are identified as the research and the curriculum aspects of faculty role. The outcomes of this study strengthen the view that the objectives proposed by this model are different than those currently espoused.

Faculty Practice as a Component of Role Synthesis

The objectives of nursing faculty role stem from the synthesis of theory, education, practice, and research. The objectives include refining the conceptual framework of the school through research, teaching academically and clinically from the conceptual framework, and practicing nursing with the conceptual framework as the theory-base of the practice. In a clinical practice based on the conceptual framework, the faculty develop educational endeavors congruent with that practice while delivering client care. Practice is integral to defining educational roles. Testing, teaching, and practicing within the boundaries of the conceptual framework are objectives of nursing faculty role. Practice is a piece of the development of nursing faculty role which occurs through the synthesis of theory, education, research, and practice. The clinical practice serves as the student's arena for learning clinical skills and research skills appropriate to their educational level. The practice also serves as a setting for generating research based on a conceptual framework and for implementing the framework in directing nursing care of clients. A significant outcome is the congruent, systematic, goal-directed development of nursing theory.

Potential Faculty Role Outcomes

The nursing faculty role emerges on a developmental continuum. As educational preparation continues through doctoral study, experience in clinical practice increases and broadens, the ability to conduct research becomes more refined, and the faculty practitioner demonstrates a higher degree of synthesis of the roles in the triad. A clearer and more congruent integration of the conceptual framework as the unifying factor underpinning the roles becomes evident. The outcome is the theory base of the faculty practitioner and the conceptual framework, within which the practitioner structures practice; increasingly toward becoming one (Figure 3). The conceptual framework will advance to a theoretical framework through descriptive, and subsequently predictive research. In this way the practitioner contributes in an ongoing manner to the movement of the school's conceptual framework toward theory, thereby advancing nursing science.

The generation of nursing theory through research is a primary goal of this model of faculty role. The continual development and refinement of the conceptual framework strengthens the educational component by restructuring and evaluating curriculum. As Christman (1979) states, the "synthesis of the roles incorporates a form of role expression whereby a scientific theory a teacher expounds in the classroom is clearly translated into the empirical science applied in the clinical setting" (p. 9).

Students are socialized into nursing through a direct association with professional practitioners. They gain clinical and research skills: observing and participating in clinical judgments, collaborating with the health care system, assuming leadership roles that are demonstrated by actively practicing faculty in a variety of health care settings.

Faculty practitioners experience an increased degree of autonomy since they control the synthesis of roles through faculty practice. Practices are negotiated within settings that can accommodate the full expression of the faculty practice role.

Outcomes of this model remain to be tested. Will the use of this model by a group of practicing faculty move a conceptual framework toward a theoretical framework? Will students who learn from professional faculty role models demonstrate a higher degree of role synthesis? Are there differences in the outcomes of client care when delivered by faculty practitioners? Can practice settings conducive to the faculty practice role be developed in the health care setting? Faculty practitioners utilizing this model for faculty practice will assist in answering these vital questions. The faculty practitioner role can become a viable process for contributing to nursing's knowledge base, while educating students and meeting the expectations of society in rendering health care.

Implications

In order for this model to be utilized, faculty need first to study the relationship of their theory base to the conceptual framework of the school prior to accepting a position. Second, they develop a practice model that demonstrates a congruent definition of the concepts and their interrelationships which are articulated within a framework. When this occurs, students learn clinically from professional role models whose practice demonstrates congruence with the concepts taught in the classroom. It is also necessary to examine how the scope of the faculty role variables must be narrowed. When teaching, practicing, and researching from a conceptual base, the integration of the roles within that base is possible only when the faculty practitioner chooses the concepts as a unifying theme in defining the faculty practice role. In order to reduce role strain, the practitioner would define the number of clients worked with at any one time, and negotiate a realistic number of students who can rotate clinically through his or her practice.

The goal is quality and not quantity of clients or students. It is evident that the student/faculty ratio would need to be small. This is only possible within an administrative structure that values the outcomes of the faculty role as described in this model. It is also important that the school's faculty possesses a broad base of interest and expertise so that the conceptual base is evident throughout the curriculum. A group commitment to this role allows for individual growth as well as educational excellence.

Summary

Nursing faculty role is the synthesis of theory, education, practice, and research within a school of nursing environment. This model of nursing faculty role presents a synthesis and implementation of professional nurse role that nursing faculty might use to systematically meet the goals of developing nursing theory based on clinical practice, redefining and evaluating this theory through research, and educating students.

References

  • American Nurses' Association (1980). Nursing: A Social Policy Statement. Kansas City: American Nurses' Association.
  • Anderson, E. & Pierson, P. (1983). An exploratory study of faculty practice: View of those faculty engaged in practice who teach in an NLNaccredited baccalaureate program. Western Journal of Nursing, 5(2), 129-140.
  • Archer, S. & Fleshman, R. (1981). Faculty role modeling. Nursing Outlook. 29(10), 586-589.
  • Bilitski, J. (1981 ). Nursing science and the laws of health: The test of substance as a step in the process of theory development. Advances in Nursing Science, 4(1), 15-28.
  • Chicadonz, G., Bush, E., Korthuis, K. & Utz, S. (1981). Mobilizing faculty toward integration of practice into faculty roles. Nursing and Health Care. 2, 548-553.
  • Christman, L. (1979). The practitioner-teacher. Nurse Educator, 4(2), 8-11.
  • Collison, C. & Parsons, M. (1980). Is practice a viable faculty role? Nursing Outlook. 28(11), 677-679.
  • Fawcett, J. (1978). The relationship between theory and research: A double helix. Advances in Nursing Sciences, 1(1), 49-62.
  • Fawcett, J. (1980). A declaration of nursing independence: The relation of theory and research to nursing practice. Journal of Nursing Administration. /0(6). 36-39.
  • Menke, E. (1978). Theory development: A challenge for nursing. In N.L. Chaska (Ed.). The Nursing Profession (p. 216-222). New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company.
  • Rauen, K. (1974). The clinical instructor as role model. The Journal of Nursing Education, 13, 33-40.
  • Reilly, D. (1975). Why a conceptual framework? Nursing Outlook, 23(8), 566-569.
  • Spero, J. (1980). Nursing: A professional practice discipline in academia. Nursing and Health Care. 1, 22-25.

10.3928/0148-4834-19861001-11

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