Journal of Nursing Education

New Nurse Faculty: Core Competencies for Role Development

U K Choudhry, PhD, RN



This study originated from the need to define the role competencies for a beginning nurse educator. A survey of full-time faculty and heads of university and community college nursing programs in Ontario showed a high degree of agreement between the two sets of faculty for teacher role, practice, service, personal and professional growth competencies. Significant differences were noted on competencies involving student evaluation, facilitating student's practice, acting as student's advocate, and research. Agreement was noted on the problems created by role ambiguity and role incompetence, particularly for new faculty. This suggests the need for educational preparation and socialization of nurse faculty.



This study originated from the need to define the role competencies for a beginning nurse educator. A survey of full-time faculty and heads of university and community college nursing programs in Ontario showed a high degree of agreement between the two sets of faculty for teacher role, practice, service, personal and professional growth competencies. Significant differences were noted on competencies involving student evaluation, facilitating student's practice, acting as student's advocate, and research. Agreement was noted on the problems created by role ambiguity and role incompetence, particularly for new faculty. This suggests the need for educational preparation and socialization of nurse faculty.


The role of a nurse educator has been an evolving one. Ever since nursing education has been a part of university and community college settings, members of nursing faculties have been increasingly expected to meet the role obligations of their employing institutions. In addition, as nursing develops into a full-fledged profession, nurse educators have a major responsibility to prepare nurses for professional practice rather than traditional occupational training. Consequently, nurse educators today need a variety of role competencies.

The faculty role today has a number of distinct subroles: teaching, practice, research/scholarship, and service. The complexity of the new role has introduced components that did not exist in the hospital schools (Mauksch, 1982). Being an experienced nurse is no longer sufficient qualification for being an educator. The role of a nurse educator is quite distinct from that of a nurse (Infante, 1986), but it has been inadequately articulated. Ambiguous definition of role, uncertainty and vagueness of expectation, discrepancy between the expectations held by the performer and those held by others, and differing beliefs concerning the priority of certain roles contribute to role strain among nurse faculty. The pressures are even greater for an inexperienced faculty member. Werner, Brueggemeyer, and Kenner (1986) describe the precarious position of the beginning nurse educator, "Feelings of inadequacy, guilt, embarrassment, and inability to meet others' expectations are the rule rather than the exception" (p. 97). The present study grew out of the investigator's search to define mininium. core competencies for nurse educators.


In Ontario, student nurses are prepared to take registration examinations in a community college diploma program or in a university baccalaureate degree program. The degree programs, in addition to practice, are designed to emphasize critical thinking; the diploma programs stress practice. All graduates, regardless of program type, are expected to meet the standards specified by the College of Nurses of Ontario (a regulatory body). Faculty are expected to ensure that the programs of nursing are sufficiently comprehensive to encompass these standards and that their students attain them. In this are inherent implications for the competencies of the faculty themselves; although these are not specified, it is reasonable to expect that all nurse faculty will have the agreed minimum competence. Very little research has been reported on essential competencies inherently necessary to perform the multiple roles of a nursing faculty member. Consequently, there is lack of educational preparation precisely for, or socialization into, the nurse educator role.

The quality of faculty performance depends on the competence as an academician, practitioner, and/or researcher. Most faculty are socialized for the practice and or research, rather than for their roles as educators. It is crucial, therefore, that the various competencies necessary for the fulfillment of the role be articulated and perceptions of faculty on the importance of these competencies be explored. Most of the literature on role issues and competencies is focused on faculty teaching in university programs. No study has specifically addressed the role issues concerning community college faculty. The purpose of this study, therefore, was to investigate the existence of a consensus among nurse faculty and their deans at universities and community colleges on the minimum acceptable competencies of a newly appointed faculty involved in carrying out various subroles. This is the first step if one is to establish objectively the essential competencies for the role, with a view to prescribing faculty socialization or educational programs that might prepare them.

Literature Review

Nurse educators are expected to demonstrate professional accountability and are judged on a multitude of competency behaviors. Faculty of nursing have been the focus of numerous studies; however, their effectiveness as academicians is usually viewed from their students' perspective and the data available primarily reflect only those aspects of role that are concerned with teaching functions. The following studies briefly review and provide a list of effective role behaviors (competencies).

Effective teacher

Teaching remains important to the overall goal of academic enterprise and, however complex, it is central to the faculty role. There appears to be a relationship between the competencies of a teacher and quality of teaching (Natapoff& Pennington, 1986). Barham's (1965) is a widely quoted study. She used critical incident technique to identify effective clinical and classroom behaviors of nursing instructors in the associate degree program of a junior community college. These behaviors were: does not let anxiety influence a situation, recognizes limitations, demonstrates understanding in working with students by being available when needed, offers explanations that are understandable, and has the ability to stimulate the student to want to learn.

Jacobson (1966), using a modified critical incident technique, identified 58 requirements for effective behavior of nursing teachers of five undergraduate university programs. She devised six conceptual groupings: availability to students, ability as a nurse and as a teacher, skills in interpersonal relationships, teaching practices, personal characteristics, and evaluation practices. These categories correspond with Barham's specific behaviors. Similarly, Mims (1970) found that, in a university nursing program, students considered the following aspects of teacher behavior most important: fairness in making and grading tests, ability to interest students in the subject, systematic organization of subject matter, ability to explain clearly, and ability as an instructor. These correspond with Jacobsons conceptual categories and Barham's specific behaviors.

Lowery, Keane, and Hayman (1971) used both graduates and undergraduate students as well as faculty from four collegiate schools and identified these factors: studentteacher communication, the personal warmth of the teacher, ability to inspire students, and thorough knowledge of the subject matter. A study by Armington, Reinikke, and Creighton (1972) rated teachers for both theory and clinical teaching. The most important characteristics were: enthusiastic about their work, being expert in their field, encouraging students to think, accessibility to students, well-organized, outstanding and imaginative presentation, and fair testing. It is readily seen that these characteristics coincide with those identified in the previous studies, and there seems to be a consensus about certain effective behaviors.

The categories of effective behaviors identified by Kiker (1973) were also similar to those identified by earlier authors; however, she includes an item that indicates the importance of a teacher having a mentor role: demonstrates skills, attitude, and value that are to be developed by the students. Rauen (1974) and Stuebbe (1980) also validated the importance of the professional mentor role when they asked their students the question: "Do nursing students expect their clinical instructor to be a role model as an effective nurse?" Brown (1981) noted that while students regard the teacher's relationship with them as most important, the faculty considered professional competence as most important. Pugh (1988) observed that faculty and students agreed on the relative importance of only one item, "corrects and comments on written assignment," among the five most highly reported teacher behaviors. However, Stuppy (1983) found no difference between faculty and students in their ranking of effective teacher behavior.

Murphy (1983) constructed a valid and reliable selfassessment instrument for clinical teaching competencies. Her final list had 49 competencies, and most of these corresponded with those in the previous studies. However, she grouped them in four major conceptual categories: (the ability) to control the unpredictable learning environment, to enhance the transfer of theory into practice, to promote the student/faculty relationship, and to incorporate the dual professional roles of the nurse educator.

Effective practitioner

It is generally assumed that the faculty members who teach clinical courses are clinically competent. As noted in the above studies, clinical competence is integral to clinical teaching effectiveness. The minimum competencies of a beginning graduate and a clinical nurse speciahst have been spelled out in detail, but the essential practice competencies for nurse educators still remain unclear (Yonge, 1986). Most university facility members are expected to have a clinical specialty. Therefore, practice competencies are usually dependent on education at the master's level. Several authors and professional organizations, such as the National League for Nursing (NLN), have attempted to identify the essential competencies an individual will have at the end of a master's program (McLane, 1978; NLN, 1979). Although their description does not enable one to prescribe competencies necessary for the faculty role, its development may be inferred. The main categories of competencies identified by them were: practicing nursing from a conceptual framework, utilizing research in the practice of nursing, refining practice through clinical research, having a high degree of interpersonal competence to influence clients and others, and improving nursing and health care through the advancement of the theory of nursing.

Research and service competencies

The literature describes the importance of research role for nurse faculty, particularly for those teaching in university settings. Not one of the studies reviewed included research competencies. The judgment is usually made on quantity of research and its competitive excellence in the competition of publication (Hölzerner & Chambers, 1988). Similarly, participation in the governance of the educational institution is considered an essential role obligation of all faculty, but what is considered competent participation was not specified in the literature.

Theoretical Framework

The theoretical framework for this research is the sociological concept of role. The role is defined as "an organized set of behaviors that belong to an identified position" (Sarbin & Allen, 1968, p. 545). The position of nurse faculty is occupied by many different persons at different times, but the role expectations for specific behavior at a specific time and place should be recognizable. The role of the nurse educator has not been articulated and has ". . . been in a constant state of flux for the better part of the century" (Wakefield-Fisher, 1983, p. 208). "Role expectations are comprised of the rights and privileges, the duties and obligations, of any occupant of a social position" (Sarbin & Allen, 1968, p. 497). Nursing schools are organized social systems where the educators meet the role obligations according to role expectations of the dean, peer, and self Different groups of nurses do not agree on the role expectations of nurse faculty (Ratcliffe & Andresky, 1988). To perform well in a role, a person's expectations must be congruent with those of his or her reference group (Conway & Glass, 1978); otherwise, incongruence can lead to role strain. It has been reported that lower rank young educators experience role ambiguity resulting in stress and low job satisfaction (Fain, 1987). Clarity of expectations is important for reducing role ambiguity and for appropriate role enactment; therefore, faculty from both program types (degree and diploma) were included in this study. It was predicted that faculty rating of competencies will be influenced by the expectation of their peers, deans, and their institutions of employment.

It is believed that roles can be learned (Hardy & Conway, 1978). Several mechanisms facilitate role learning, including formal educational preparation, informal learning from experience and the influence and observation of mentors, and continuing education. Using this theory, it was predicted that educational level and years of teaching experience will have a positive relationship on the rating of competencies. Therefore, one of the purposes of this study was to test the hypothesized relationship of role theory to the rating of competencies.

Statement of Problem

It is the researcher's contention that regardless of the type of institution (university or community college) or program (baccalaureate or diploma), nurse educators are expected to perform a number of common roles with competency. This assertion is based on the following:

* There is increasing similarity between baccalaureate and diploma programs and the same minimum standards of performance are expected of both sets of graduates.

* In addition to the mandate of their employing institutions, nurse faculty role obligations are greatly influenced by the demands of their profession. Therefore, they are expected to engage in practice and research. This value will show in their responses to various competencies even if they do not practice or do research themselves.

* Both universities and community colleges are institutions of higher learning. Although their mandates are distinct (e.g., research is not a primary goal of community colleges), there is considerable overlap in faculty role expectations. This will reveal itself by agreement on the relative value assigned to various competencies.


The research tested the following hypotheses:

1. There is no difference among the faculty respondents by type of institution in which they are employed as to the rating of competencies.

2. There is no difference between faculty respondents and those of deans on the rating of competencies.

3. The educational level of the faculty respondents bears no relationship to their rating of competencies.

4. The length of the respondents' teaching experience bears no relationship to their rating of competencies.

Questionnaire Development and Pilot-Testing

The items included for the subroles Teacher" and "Practitioner" were based on the findings of researchers quoted in the literature. Since no prior study identified competencies for "Research" and "Service" subroles, these were derived from various articles and books describing their importance, content to be included, and competencies to be attained at the end of a graduate program of nursing. To emphasize the importance of continuing education for nurse educators, a separate category was created to include competencies for personal and professional growth. Benners (1982) definition guided the writing of competencies.

The questionnaire contained 96 competencies and also sought biographic data, educational background, and teaching experience. On a commonly used Likert-type scale, respondents were asked to select the number that best represented the degree of desirability of a competency from (1) least desirable to (5) most desirable. The rating of competencies was for ideal and beginning level. Respondents were asked to rate each competency at two levels: the level of competency that a nurse educator should ideally possess and the acceptable level of competency for a beginning nurse educator. The ideal level rating was sought on each item in order to provide a point of reference against which respondents could rate the beginning level.



The questionnaire was reviewed for its clarify, semantics, content, and was pilot-tested on a sample drawn from one community college UV= 15) and two universities (AT= 5). Based on comments and their frequency, wording was refined for certain items while some were eliminated. Thus, face validity of the instrument was achieved. Cronbach's alpha was greater than .88 for all subroles. This was a direct support for the internal consistency among the items and thus the overall reliability of the content.

Factor Analysis

For factor analysis, the Kaiser criterion, uniweighted least squares, was followed by oblique rotation to extract the factors. Items with a loading of .35 or greater were included and those loading on more than one factor were omitted. The related variables were identified according to shared common variance and thus the same attributes. This resulted in six teacher, two practice, two research, two service, and two personal and professional growth role competencies. Thus, factor analysis reduced the initial 96 competencies to a final total of 14. These 14 competencies are described and given code names in Figure 1.


The study sample consisted of 50% of full-time faculty of all community colleges, all full-time faculty of all the universities in Ontario, and all the heads of these institutions.


Questionnaires with a stamped, self-addressed envelope were mailed to the faculty and faculty heads. The anonymity of responses was ensured by asking respondents not to identify themselves or their institutions but, since it was desired to compare responses, the questionnaires were color-coded. Thus, out of a total of 626 questionnaires, 291 (46.7%) were returned. Of these, only 268 could be used in this study. Responses from 193 community college faculty, 60 university faculty, 4 university deans, and 11 community college deans/chairpersons were included in the final analysis of the study.


Rating and ranking of competencies

Both sets of faculty considered all 96 competencies desirable for a beginning faculty member; mean ratings ranged from 2.71 to 4.63 (Table 1). Rankings assigned to competencies by both sets of faculty were computed and subjected to Kendall's Coefficient of Concordance, which was significant for teaching, practice, research, and service subroles (WOO), showing complete agreement between the two sets of faculty. However, there was less agreement (W=. 48) for competencies for personal and professional growth. Figure 2 presents only the top 25% of the final ranking of the 96 competencies.

Hypothesis testing

For the purpose of testing the hypotheses, multivariate repeated measures of analysis of variance (MANOVA) was the primary statistical technique used. There were two grouping factors: status (faculty or deans) and institution (community college or university). The repeated factor compared levels (beginning and ideal). Wilks" multivariate F test was used to test the significant difference between the groups. Where a significant MANOVA F was obtained, analyses of variance (univariate F) on each dependent variable were examined to determine which of these variables were specifically significant. These analyses were carried out using the SPSSX Statistical Package, release 3.1. The alpha level was set at .05.


TABLE 1Beginning Competencies as Rated by All Respondents (N = 268)


Beginning Competencies as Rated by All Respondents (N = 268)

As can be seen from Table 2, there was a significant difference (F(14,251) = 9.48, p<.001) on the overall ratings of competencies by type of institution. The univariate Fs revealed that the significant difference arose from the ratings of the following competencies: evaluates students' performance (STUEVAL); facilitates students' clinical practice (STUCLIN); acts as a student advocate, advisor, and resource (ADVISOR); disseminates research, reviews and assesses research, designs research to procure funds and advances nursing through research (ADVANSG); and has the ability to critique research and apply research in practice and teaching (CRITRES). Since the multivariate F was significant and the probability of occurrence was much less than the established criterion, Hypothesis 1 was rejected.

The result of the second hypothesis showed that deans and faculty expected the same level of competencies for a beginning faculty member. The difference in their rating was not significant.

FIGURE 2Top 25% of Final Ranking of Competencies


Top 25% of Final Ranking of Competencies


TABLE 2Descriptive Statistics and Univariate/Multivariate* ANOVA (Between-Subject Effects) by Institution Type for Faculty Competencies


Descriptive Statistics and Univariate/Multivariate* ANOVA (Between-Subject Effects) by Institution Type for Faculty Competencies

Hypothesis 3 stated that respondents' educational level will influence the ratings assigned to the competencies. The multivariate analysis was significant, F(28,486) = 2.26, p<.001, and univariate F was significant for STUEVAL, iX2,256) = 6.69, p<.001; ADVANSG, i\2,256) = 9.45, p<.001; and CRITRES, F(2,256) = 7.31, p<.001. The Scheffé test of multiple comparison showed a significant difference in the ratings of faculty according to their educational level:

* Faculty with a baccalaureate degree gave higher mean ratings than those with a master's degree for STUEVAL (4.25 vs. 4.04).

* Faculty with a doctorate rated research competencies higher than those with a master's degree, and faculty with a baccalaureate rated them lowest (2.92, 2.42, and 2.32, respectively, for ADVANSG; 3.83, 3.23, and 3.01, respectively, for CRITRES).

Correlation analysis was used to test the relationship of length of teaching experience and rating of competencies. It was noted that the length of teaching experience had a relationship to competencies requiring a sound knowledge base of curriculum, development, implementation, and evaluation (CURRICU), r=.12, and understanding of institutional structure (WORCOND), r = .18. The relationship defined was not strong and was considered to be of little explanatory value.

The analysis of the difference between the beginning and ideal was not statistically significant. However, the difference itself in the repeated factor was highly significant multivariately, *U4,251) = 127.9, p<.001. Analysis of difference between the beginning and ideal measures showed that university and community college respondents were significantly different, F 14,251) =4.47, p<.001. The univariate difference was specific to the ability to critique research and apply research in practice and teaching (CRITRES), ÍX1.264)= 19.23, p<.001; the difference between ideal and beginning was greater for community college faculty (2.93 for beginning and 4.24 for ideal), compared to university faculty (3.91 for beginning and 4.74 for ideal).

Discussion and Implications

It is important to note that although assigned value varied among competencies, all competencies were considered desirable by both groups. Thus, the curriculum designed to prepare nurse educators should include these competencies. Unexpectedly higher ratings given by community college faculty were noted for competencies for evaluating students' performance (STUDEVA); facilitating students' clinical practice (STUCLIN); acting as an advocate, advisor, and a resource (ADVISOR). One would expect these teacher-role competencies to be of equal importance for all beginning educators regardless of institutional setting or program type. A plausible explanation is that diploma programs have greater focus on practice and have more frequent clinical rotation requiring evaluation of students' performance. Therefore, the respondents probably feel that a beginning faculty member teaching in a diploma program needs a higher level competency for this aspect of the teacher role. The low rating that the university respondent gave to advising may be because of their commitment to research. It has been noted that faculty spent less time teaching and advising as a result of increased opportunity for research (Hölzerner & Chambers, 1988). The implication of these findings is that these differences should be incorporated while planning feculty socialization.

The complete agreement between the two sets of feculty on the remaining three teacher-role competencies suggests certain core competencies that indicate common educational and socialization needs of all new nursing appointments. The expectation that a beginning educator have competence in facilitating student development (STUDEVP); demonstrating sound knowledge base for curriculum development, implementation, and evaluation (CURRICUL); and demonstrating comprehensive knowledge of subjects), theories of learning and teaching, and appropriate classroom strategies (TEACHIiE) indicates that some prior preparation is needed for this role - certainly more than a baccalaureate - preferably at a master's level consisting of relevant courses in education and in clinical teaching competence.

The significant difference between the two sets of feculty on the ratings of research and scholarship competencies was not surprising. The university feculty gave higher ratings. This is consistent with the different mandates of the two types of institution. The expectations and importance placed by administration on the research function affects feculty willingness to spend time and effort to become competent in the role. There is clear expectation that the university nurse faculty be able to do research and engage in scholarly activities. Even if they do no research themselves, they believe research is one of their main roles (Anderson, 1986). Research competencies are usually linked with graduate education. The results of this study show this relationship. Despite the small number of doctorally prepared nurse faculty in universities (25% of the sample), they rated these competencies higher than did their community college counterparts. Since most community college respondents have their baccalaureate (90% of the sample) as their highest qualification, their low rating of the research function is possibly a reflection of their self-perceived role deficit. Despite the value they might place on this role, they gave lower ratings to these competencies for a new feculty member.

As mentioned earlier, community colleges in Ontario have no research responsibilities. However, there are those who believe that research on issues that are unique to community colleges can be best addressed by feculty within the system and that community college feculty should engage in research if they wish and are qualified to do so (Watson, in Pascal, 1980). If research becomes a role obligation of community colleges (Vision 2000, 1988), many educators who are presently teaching in the community college program would need additional preparation for this role.

Some respondents commented that they were unable to access graduate programs because of geographic barriers and limited availability of suitable programs. Another difficulty faced by many is the lack of opportunity to obtain doctoral degrees in nursing in Ontario. Therefore, institutional support, such as study leave to continue education, is more vital for faculties of nursing.

An important finding is that beginning educators have a high degree of interpersonal competence (RELATE), are able to practice nursing with a theoretical and conceptual framework, and are able to utilize research for improvement of the health of the client (CLINICL). These observations are consistent with the thinking of those who consider feculty practice a professional imperative (Charron, 1985; Mauksch, 1980). These findings reflect the increasing publicity about what nurse faculty ought to do and the need for them to show competence in practice as well as in teaching. Therefore, faculty practice is increasingly becoming a reality and an essential component of the academic role in university programs; however, community colleges have yet to address this issue. Despite its advantages, faculty practice is not free from problems. Attention has to be given to the issues of workload, merit points, and the importance of this role for tenure and promotion. Employers of faculty, particularly those in the community colleges, need to be creative in job descriptions and flexible in time scheduling so that this subrole can be incorporated.

These findings carry the implication that those charged with faculty education need to ensure that faculty is afforded the opportunity to develop practice as well as teaching roles, and a program that has a clinical specialty as well as education courses (i.e., a dual-role preparation at a graduate level). Whether this should be done at the master's or doctoral level needs to be explored. During the past two decades, graduate programs in nursing have grown in their emphasis on clinical specializations and research focus. When appointed as faculty, new graduates of these programs have limited, if any, knowledge of their role as a teacher (Davis & Williams, 1985; Karuhije, 1986). Therefore, their basic competencies must include the competencies of an educator; they must have an understanding of education as well as nursing.

The findings of this study make it clear that new feculty members should have the requisite competence to participate in the functioning of the employing institution, and have an understanding of its structure, policies, and procedures (WORCOND). They should also possess knowledge of their own rights and responsibilities, as well as the ability to participate in professional and community activities (PROFESS). This implies that faculty should become familiar with the institution and become involved in all aspects of health and socioeconomic/political issues concerning the profession and the community. Effective participation in the service role depends on the individual's level of development. A new faculty may be reluctant to serve on a committee, but one who has achieved some experience or has participated in a formal educational program would make a significant contribution in the governance of an institution.

The agreement by both sets of feculty that a beginning faculty participates in the development of others by sharing knowledge, collaborating in program development, identifying role conflict, and planning and implementing changes (DEVOTHE), as well as by participating in their own professional growth (DEVSELF), implies that faculty need insight into their own strengths and weaknesses so that they participate not only in their own personal and professional growth, but influence their colleagues as well.


There is the widely held expectation that a nurse faculty will play all subroles: theoretical and clinical teacher, curriculum developer, measurement expert, student advisor, clinical practitioner, professional mentor and leader, critical and informed research user, creative and meticulous research producer and publisher, self-aware and selfdeveloping educator, and nurse. The present study attests to this commonly held expectation. Developing competence in all the subroles is a mammoth task and some respondents commented that it is unrealistic. One solution would be to explore the plausibility of a balance among the mix of competencies necessary among specialized faculty in a program team. It is obvious that all beginning educators, regardless of institutional type, need some prior educational preparation for a successful role performance. This cannot be done by having them attend conferences and workshops. Such activities can provide orientation and support the continuing development of faculty, but should be built upon their formal education and experience (Fitzpatrick & Heller, 1980). This has implications for curriculum planners of graduate education for nurses. They need to ensure that courses include some distinct process whereby the socialization into their roles, functions, and settings will occur.


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Beginning Competencies as Rated by All Respondents (N = 268)


Descriptive Statistics and Univariate/Multivariate* ANOVA (Between-Subject Effects) by Institution Type for Faculty Competencies


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