Journal of Nursing Education

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Career Stage: The Heterogeneity of Nursing Faculty

Jo Anne Grunbaum, EdD, MEd, BSN

Abstract

ABSTRACT

The purpose of this study was to examine attitudes of nursing faculty and determine if attitudinal differences did exist toward various facets of the work setting based on academic rank. This study also determined the effect of age on the aforementioned relationship.

Nursing faculty currently teaching at public colleges and universities were randomly selected from school catalogues and asked to participate in the study. A total of 496 affirmative responses were received from the initial and follow-up mailing. However, 27 were either ineligible to participate or returned an incomplete Job Attitude Scale. The remaining 469 responses were utilized for the descriptive statistics.

The results of a MANOVA (n=421) indicate that there are statistically significant differences in attitudes toward various factors within the work setting based on academic rank. That significance remains even when age is controlled. Full professors were more concerned with being creative, having a good relationship with subordinates, personnel policies and status. Nursing faculty who were instructors and assistant professors were interested in receiving praise, having a competent supervisor, having a good relationship with peers and a secure job.

Abstract

ABSTRACT

The purpose of this study was to examine attitudes of nursing faculty and determine if attitudinal differences did exist toward various facets of the work setting based on academic rank. This study also determined the effect of age on the aforementioned relationship.

Nursing faculty currently teaching at public colleges and universities were randomly selected from school catalogues and asked to participate in the study. A total of 496 affirmative responses were received from the initial and follow-up mailing. However, 27 were either ineligible to participate or returned an incomplete Job Attitude Scale. The remaining 469 responses were utilized for the descriptive statistics.

The results of a MANOVA (n=421) indicate that there are statistically significant differences in attitudes toward various factors within the work setting based on academic rank. That significance remains even when age is controlled. Full professors were more concerned with being creative, having a good relationship with subordinates, personnel policies and status. Nursing faculty who were instructors and assistant professors were interested in receiving praise, having a competent supervisor, having a good relationship with peers and a secure job.

Introduction

Traditionally, administrators of nursing schools have assumed that the nursing faculty is a homogenous group with similar attitudes and needs. Workloads are developed to assure that teaching and clinical loads are shared equally among all faculty. Faculty development programs are instituted for all faculty, or for faculty in a particular discipline, often with mandatory attendance regardless of the needs of the individual.

Recently there has been some indication in the literature (Baldwin & Blackburn, 1981; Braskamp, Fowler & Ory, 1984; Fedler & Counts, 1982) that faculty at colleges and universities pass through identifiable career stages that are similar to the stages occurring during the adult life cycle. This would imply that faculty groups are heterogenous with various attitudes and needs occurring at different times during an individual's career. However, there has been little systematic research to determine if nursing faculty also progress through identifiable career stages. The purpose of this study was to examine attitudes of nursing faculty and determine if attitudinal differences did exist toward various facets of the work setting based on academic rank.

Theoretical Development

ADULT DEVELOPMENT- Erikson (1978) delineated three stages that occur during adulthood. Each stage represents a new challenge that must be navigated successfully prior to moving on to the next stage. In order to proceed past each stage, one must successfully deal with the "crises" associated with each stage. Sheehy (1976) and Levinson (1979) have identified an adult life cycle, based on Erikson's stages, which consists of stable, structure-building periods alternating with transitional, structure-changing periods. Transitions, lasting approximately five years, are a time to reappraise the existing structure and explore new possibilities while providing a basis for new structures. Structure building is characterized by making crucial choices and creating a new order (Levinson, 1979). Transitions and structure building occur as a pair with each set lasting 10 to 13 years.

An individuals attitudes, needs, desires, and dreams change from the time one enters adulthood until one is ready to retire. All three authors (Erikson, 1978; Levinson, 1979; Sheehy, 1976) have identified that a 'mid-life crisis' begins in the mid-30 age bracket and continues until the 40s. It is a time of appraising the current life structure, reappraising the past, and formulating future goals. It appears that this is a turbulent time in an individual's life. Mid-life appears to be a time when a worker undergoes a "range of frustrations and problems involving work" (Eurich, 1981, p. 458) and realizes that he may not reach his goals.

FACULTY DEVELOPMENT- A few authors (Baldwin & Blackburn, 1981; Braskamp, Fowler, & Ory, 1984; Fedler & Counts, 1982) have integrated the research on adult development with the evolution of faculty careers. Baldwin and Blackburn (1981) infer in their research that the academic career follows an evolutionary course that parallels the adult life cycle. Their findings support the theory that a career is a developmental process, with some faculty characteristics remaining stable, some evolving consistently, and others fluctuating. Their research demonstrated that faculty members have different characteristics and needs at varying stages in their academic careers. There also appeared to be a trend that mid-career brought about a reassessment of career relevance and a feeling of career standstill. That would fit with the theories previously described on adult development.

Fedler and Counts (1982) randomly surveyed 200 assistant professors, 200 associate professors, and 200 professors to determine if job satisfaction was related to academic rank. Female faculty accounted for 11% of the sample. Their results demonstrated that variance in job satisfaction did exist among faculty of differing rank. Braskamp, Fowler, and Ory (1984) attempted to determine if professorial rank could account for differences in the sources of job satisfaction. Although this was a small, nonrandom sample, the data indicate that there were major differences among the three ranks in the factors producing job satisfaction.

Overall, there appears to be some indication in the literature that there are distinct differences in faculty attitudes and needs among faculty of varying rank. If that premise is true, then it is inappropriate to assume nursing faculty are homogenous in determining faculty workloads or in providing faculty development programs. The workload may be inappropriate for an individual's career stage while the development programs may be inappropriate for a heterogeneous group of faculty.

NURSING FACULTY- A few studies relating to nursing faculty (Donohue, 1986; Grandjean, Bonjean, & Aiken, 1982; Marriner & Craigie, 1977) have examined subsets of faculty to account for potential differences that occur in relation to some job variables. Grandjean, Bonjean and Aiken (1982), in examining overall job satisfaction, demonstrated that job satisfaction ratings did vary based on faculty rank. Donohue (1986) determined that faculty perceptions of their dean changed based on academic rank. Marriner and Craigie (1977) examined both the importance of various job characteristics as well as the satisfaction with those job characteristics in a group of nursing faculty. Their results indicated that differences do exist between junior and senior faculty in both the importance and satisfaction domain. From these few studies, it appears that there is some need to further examine the attitudes and needs of nursing faculty at various stages in their career.

Hypotheses

Based on the adult development literature (Erikson, 1978; Levinson, 1979; Sheehy, 1976), the literature related to faculty development (Baldwin & Blackburn, 1981; Braskamp, Fowler & Ory, 1984; Fedler & Counts, 1982), as well as the preliminary indication in the nursing literature (Donohue, 1986; Grandjean, Bonjean, & Aiken, 1982; Marriner & Craigie, 1977), the following null hypotheses were formulated:

1. There is no significant difference between the scores on the Job Attitude Scale for nurse educators in varying career stages.

2. There is no significant relationship between age and the scores on the Job Attitude Scale for nurse educators.

Method

SAMPLE - The sample for this study consisted of fulltime nursing faculty employed in a National League for Nursing (NLN) accredited public college or university within the Southern Region of the United States as defined by the NLN. The school had to offer a minimum of a baccalaureate degree. The sample was randomly selected from school catalogues and participation in the study was voluntary.

INSTRUMENTATION- The Job Attitude Scale (JAS) (Saleh, 1971) measures the importance of a variety of factors within the work setting. The JAS consists of 16 jobrelated statements with each statement paired with the other 15 in a forced choice format for a total of 120 pairs. The 16 statements relate to: responsibility, achievement, advancement, praise, creativity, growth in skill, pleasant surroundings, competent supervisor, relationship with supervisor, relationship with peers, relationship with subordinates, salary, job security, personnel policies, statue, and family needs. Saleh (1971) utilized a systematic method to scatter the items throughout the scale, which gave each statement an equal chance of distribution within the questionnaire (p. 1). From each dyad, the subject is asked to choose which statement is most important to him/ her in the work setting.

The reliability of the JAS was established using a testretest reliability and Kuder-Richarson21. The test-retest reliability was established by Saleh (1971) utilizing 25 employees in a large company. The correlation between the scores of the two administrations was ,88. A KR21 was performed for each of the 16 factors and demonstrated that, overall, the JAS was very reliable with the individual scores ranging from 0.63-0.90. A demographic data form was developed for this study to elicit pertinent descriptive information about the sample. Items were included to measure age, race, gender, academic rank, educational preparation, current employment status, tenure status, and number of years an individual had taught nursing.

Table

TABLE 1DEMOGRAPHIC VARIABLES

TABLE 1

DEMOGRAPHIC VARIABLES

PROCEDURE - Names were obtained from school catalogues, and each subject was contacted at the place of employment. An attempt was made to eliminate part-time faculty from initial selection; however, some catalogues did not distinguish faculty employment status. Each subject was mailed a packet containing a cover letter explaining the purpose of the study, a questionnaire, a stamped, selfaddressed envelope, and a postcard. The subjects were requested to return the questionnaire in the envelope provided and not to sign their names to insure anonymity. The postcard allowed each subject to indicate intent to return the questionnaire and was returned under separate cover.

A total of 496 affirmative responses were received from the initial and follow-up mailings. However, 12 (2%) of those questionnaires were unuseable due to incomplete Job Attitude Scale results. Part-time faculty (n=15) did not meet the delimitations of the study and were eliminated from further analysis. Therefore, the descriptive analyses included 469 (94.6%) nursing faculty teaching full time at an accredited public college or university in the Southern Region as defined by the NLN.

DATA ANALYSIS - Multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) was conducted to answer the first hypothesis. The four academic ranks - instructor, assistant professor, associate professor, and professor - were the independent variables, and the 16 job-related factors within the Job Attitude Scale were the dependent variables. Chi-square analysis was performed to determine the relationship between age and rank. Multivariate analysis of covariance (MANCOVA) was performed to answer the second hypothesis with age as the covariate to determine if the effect was due to age. Post hoc univariate tests and discriminant analysis were performed using academic rank as the independent variable.

Results

The faculty sample resembled the nursing faculty population from which it was drawn. Table 1 demonstrates the characteristics of the sample with respect to age, ethnicity, gender, academic rank, and degree. There was great similarity between the age of the respondents and the age of the population. The majority of the respondents were Caucasian with a total of 38 (8%) from minority races. This is deviant from the population data, which indicated 15% of faculty in the Southern Region were ethnic minorities. There were 12 (2.6%) male respondents, which is only slightly lower than the population of 3.9% male faculty in 1986 (NLN, 1986). Nearly half the respondents were assistant professors, while almost one third were doctoral prepared. Many of the respondents indicated that they were currently enrolled in a doctoral program, which is in keeping with the trend toward increased educational preparation for nursing faculty teaching at colleges and universities.

The reliability of the JAS was assessed for the current sample. A KR21 was performed for each of the subscales with reliability values ranging from .64 to .89 (Table 2). Means and standard deviations for each of the subscales in the JAS are presented in Table 2. A subscale could have a value as low as zero if that statement was never chosen, or as high as 15 if an individual chose the statement each time it appeared in the questionnaire. Therefore, the higher the mean, the more important that value was to the majority of respondents. The most important variable to the overall sample was meeting family needs, while the least important variable was having responsibility.

There is question as to the relationship between age and one's attitudes and needs. One might expect attitudes toward a job to change based on age in much the same manner as other attitudes change over the course of an adults life. Tb determine the relationship between age and job attitudes, a Pearson Product Moment Correlation was performed for age with each of the 16 job attitude variables. There was significant statistical correlation between age and several of the dependent variables. However, in most cases the correlations were weak (Table 3).

Multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) was performed using rank as the main effect. Due to small cell size, males and ethnic minorities were eliminated from multivariate analysis. The results of the MANOVA (Table 4) indicate that rank was significantly related to the variables that affect job attitude (p <.003). The post hoc univariate analysis demonstrated statistically significant differences among the academic ranks on four variables: advancement, creativity, relationship with peers, and having a secure job. A trend was evident in relationship to meeting family needs and status.

Table

TABLE 2MEANS. STANDARD DEVIATIONS AND RELIABILITY SCORES OF THE JOB ATTITUDE SCALE

TABLE 2

MEANS. STANDARD DEVIATIONS AND RELIABILITY SCORES OF THE JOB ATTITUDE SCALE

Table

TABLE 3CORRELATION OF AGE WITH EACH DEPENDENT VARIABLE

TABLE 3

CORRELATION OF AGE WITH EACH DEPENDENT VARIABLE

A Chi-square analysis was performed to determine the relationship between age and rank. The results indicate X2e = 95.51; ? <.001. Age was then controlled, and a multivariate analysis of covariance (MANCOVA) was performed to determine if the significant effects of rank could be accounted for by age. The results of the MANCOVA (!able 4) indicate that there are statistically significant effects of rank even when age is controlled (p <.03). The univariate results indicate five statistically significant variables.

Tb further explore the nature of the relationship, a post hoc discriminant analysis was performed. There was one significant function (X248 = 79.67; ? <.003). The instructors (group one) and assistant professors (group two) clustered together. Full professors (group four) were farthest away from groups one and two. Associate professors (group three) were midway between group four and the cluster of groups one and two (Figure 1). Full professors scored highest on four specific variables: performing creative work, good relationship with subordinates, beneficial personnel policies, and having a job of special prestige. Instructors and assistant professors scored highest on having a competent supervisor, a good relationship with peers, receiving praise, and having a secure job. Tb further examine the effect in a more graphic way, the cell means for each dependent variable are presented by rank (Table 5).

Table

TABLE 4EFFECT OF RANK AND THE EFFECTS COVARIED WITH AGE

TABLE 4

EFFECT OF RANK AND THE EFFECTS COVARIED WITH AGE

Table

FIGURE 1DISCRIMINANT FUNCTION OF RANK EVALUATED AT GROUP CENTROIDS

FIGURE 1

DISCRIMINANT FUNCTION OF RANK EVALUATED AT GROUP CENTROIDS

The results of this study are consistent with what was expected. Professors are generally tenured and have a sense of job security not felt by instructors and assistant professors; therefore, they don't appear to feel a need for job security, they know their job is secure. The professors want to be creative and have status associated with their efforts. New faculty, at the instructor and assistant professor levels, often appreciate supervision and peer support as they begin to move up the academic ranks. They find it imperative to have a competent supervisor. These faculty may be insecure and require praise of a job well done while professors are secure in their abilities.

Discussion

It appears from this study that nursing faculty have different attitudes and goals at various points in their career, regardless of age. This supports other studies that examined the relationship between rank and attitudes in other faculty groups. Braskamp, Fowler, and Ory (1984) demonstrated that peers were important to assistant professors. Peers review a faculty's scholarly attempts and pass judgment on its merit by publishing the work. Baldwin and Blackburn (1981) found that assistant professors with less than three years experience were receptive to assistance from experienced colleagues. The results of the current research indicate that one factor that instructors and assistant professors indicated as being important is positive peer relationships. It may be that peers help new faculty navigate "the system" in higher education.

There is indication from previous studies (Baldwin & Blackburn, 1981; Braskamp, Fowler, & Ory, 1984) that full professors are interested in assuming a mentor role and assisting younger colleagues. Baldwin and Blackburn (1981) report that professors more than five years from retirement want to extend their influence by consulting and becoming active in professional organizations. They also found that assistant professors who had taught more than three years, associate professors, and professors more than five years from retirement indicate that rapport with students and colleagues was one of their major professional strengths. However, it was strongest in the latter group. Braskamp, Fowler, and Ory (1984) found that full professors were interested in making a contribution to society. The present study demonstrated that, among other things, professors indicated that having a positive relationship with subordinates was important. This finding is similar to previously mentioned results which demonstrated that professors are interested in making a contribution and assisting colleagues.

Table

TABLE 5MEANS OF EACH RANK FOR EACH DEPENDENT VARIABLE

TABLE 5

MEANS OF EACH RANK FOR EACH DEPENDENT VARIABLE

The current research did demonstrate results that appear to be unique to the study. Instructors and assistant professors indicated that the following were important to them: 1 ) having a competent supervisor, 2) receiving praise and recognition, and 3) having a secure job. Professors are most interested in: 1) performing creative work, 2) having beneficial personnel policies, and 3) having a job of special prestige. It is important to be aware of those differences. Newer faculty might feel overwhelmed by requirements to be creative and feel insecure without adequate praise and job security. Professors appear to need to be creative and to think that their job is prestigious.

The implications of this study are that differences in attitudes do exist among nursing faculty of differing academic rank. Nursing faculty, at varying rank, rate certain facets of the work environment as being more important than other factors. Administrators need to be aware of these differences and realize that not all faculty have the same needs. Faculty development programs should be planned to meet the varying needs of the faculty. Workloads and responsibilities also might be delegated based on career stage. Junior faculty might feel overwhelmed by a neçd to perform creative work, while senior faculty need to feel that they are contributing something creative and special to their students.

Administrators also must be astute to the fact that the needs of any one faculty member will change over the course of that individual's career. A faculty member's attitudes will change throughout the years and administrators must be careful to not "lock in" the individual to certain tasks or responsibilities, but rather to accept the growth that comes as a faculty member's career matures.

Limitations and Recommendations

The primary limitation of this study is the representativeness of the respondents from the sample. The data analyses were based upon those individuals who voluntarily returned completed questionnaires. There was no mechanism to determine differences between those faculty who participated and those who declined. However, the respondents are similar in demographic characteristics to the population.

The relationship between rank and attitudes of nursing faculty requires further study. One future study should be longitudinal research to follow nursing faculty cohorts across time to determine how specific groups change throughout a career. That study could then account for historical factors as well as age and career stage in determining changes that occur. The current study also could be replicated and expanded using a representative sample from the entire United States to determine if the results are generalizable to the entire population of nurse educators in the United States.

This study demonstrates a specific need. Administrators of nursing programs in higher education should be aware of the various attitudes and needs that exist among faculty members. Programs must be developed that meet those needs so faculty will feel satisfied with their job and their performance. Workloads should be examined and, along with equitable distribution, take into account an individual's career stage.

References

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TABLE 1

DEMOGRAPHIC VARIABLES

TABLE 2

MEANS. STANDARD DEVIATIONS AND RELIABILITY SCORES OF THE JOB ATTITUDE SCALE

TABLE 3

CORRELATION OF AGE WITH EACH DEPENDENT VARIABLE

TABLE 4

EFFECT OF RANK AND THE EFFECTS COVARIED WITH AGE

FIGURE 1

DISCRIMINANT FUNCTION OF RANK EVALUATED AT GROUP CENTROIDS

TABLE 5

MEANS OF EACH RANK FOR EACH DEPENDENT VARIABLE

10.3928/0148-4834-19880901-04

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