Among the critical issues debated by nurse educators is that of faculty practice. What it is, how it should be implemented, how it should be remunerated, and whether all nurse educators should be involved in practice remains a point of considerable and sustained debate in the profession.
At the American Academy of Nursing's Fourth Annual Nursing Faculty Practice Symposium held January 8-10, 1987, in Tucson, Arizona, two of nursing's most articulate leaders representing service and education shared their views on the subject. In describing faculty practice, Dr. Margaret McClure, Executive Director of Nursing at the New York University Medical Center, stated simply that faculty practice consists of doing what faculty teach others to do. She distinguished between patient care and practice by the focus and intent of the activity and differentiated between faculty practice and the practice of other professional nurses through the two major dimensions of the faculty role - teacher and scholar. Practice, Dr. McClure reasoned, provides the teacher with opportunity to continually learn and gain new insights and verify ideas regarding the delivery of nursing care to patients to enrich the material presented in the classroom and clinical area. She emphasized the point that scholars who do not practice cannot address the important questions that must be systematically studied to improve nursing practice.
Dr. Claire Fagin, Dean and Professor, School of Nursing, University of Pennsylvania, expressed her concern that Dr. McClure's distinction between patient care and practice failed to address the profession as a whole. She offered the definition of practice as doing, or the application of something, and pointed out that theory is useless without practice. Comparing practice in nursing to that of other professions, she defined a practitioner as one who is engaged in the actual use or exercise of the profession.
The important point made by these two leaders is that nursing practice and education benefit incrementally by strong linkages in practice, education, and research. However, there are major organizational problems encountered in successfully bringing the service and education components together, and some of these were analyzed by both speakers. It will come as no surprise to note that financial arrangements are a critical factor in determining the success or failure of a faculty practice plan. There is a serious time and energy commitment involved; therefore, faculty who practice should be compensated above their colleagues who do not. Because of the traditional responsibilities and role overload and conflict of women, it was pointed out that given the choice between more money or more free time, nurses have tended to choose the latter, unlike their predominately male colleagues in other practice professions.
Dr. McClure stated that the choice is really ours whether or not we want to give serious attention to the matter of faculty practice. If we do, the reward system in academia must be reshaped to include incentives for practice through the balance of workloads and rewards. The leadership of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing and the American Organization of Nurse Executives have a formal relationship designed to deal with critical professional issues affecting nursing education and practice. Dr. McClure recommended that this group be the appropriate forum for developing policy statements relating to faculty practice.
The dialogue between Dr. McClure and Dr. Fagin should be duplicated at the home scene of every school of nursing with each of the practice sites in which faculty teach and learn.