Journal of Nursing Education

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Nursing Professorate in America: Projected Retirements and Replacements

Marilyn Ryan, EdD, RN; Phyllis Irvine, PhD, RN

Abstract

ABSTRACT

New paradigms are emerging in higher education, and institutions are facing financial shortfalls. Faculty retirements and resignations may have an impact on the quality of education across disciplines. Will adequate numbers of doctorally prepared replacements be entering nursing education to meet projected retirements and resignations? A national study was conducted of National League for Nursing-accredited baccalaureate and higher degree nursing programs with 296 (58%) responding. The purpose was to determine faculty profiles, policies related to retirement, and projected replacements. Projected retirements and resignations over the years 1992 to 2006 are estimated to be approximately one third of the current faculty work force. Numbers of anticipated graduates at the master's level seem to be adequate. However, doctorally prepared candidates will most certainly not fill all the gaps that will exist in nursing education. Implications call for an examination of clinical teaching practices to ensure continued quality nursing education. An examination of faculty retirement policies and plans is warranted.

Abstract

ABSTRACT

New paradigms are emerging in higher education, and institutions are facing financial shortfalls. Faculty retirements and resignations may have an impact on the quality of education across disciplines. Will adequate numbers of doctorally prepared replacements be entering nursing education to meet projected retirements and resignations? A national study was conducted of National League for Nursing-accredited baccalaureate and higher degree nursing programs with 296 (58%) responding. The purpose was to determine faculty profiles, policies related to retirement, and projected replacements. Projected retirements and resignations over the years 1992 to 2006 are estimated to be approximately one third of the current faculty work force. Numbers of anticipated graduates at the master's level seem to be adequate. However, doctorally prepared candidates will most certainly not fill all the gaps that will exist in nursing education. Implications call for an examination of clinical teaching practices to ensure continued quality nursing education. An examination of faculty retirement policies and plans is warranted.

Introduction

The decade of the 1990s gives every indication of being a collage of contrasts. According to Lindeman (1992), new paradigms are emerging rapidly in higher education and the old system is toppling. Both private and public educational systems are grappling with financial woes, which will have an impact on availability of economic resources. Neither state nor institutional resources may be forthcoming to support current, replacement, or additional faculty needs. Anticipated retirements may lead to a significant turnover within the nursing professorate. Competitive salaries and flexible work schedules in nursing practice areas are luring graduate level nurses away from the academic work force ("Educators Brace," 1992; Gothler & Rosenfeld, 1986). Will replacements be avail-able for the projected retirements? Some prognosticators fear that a mismatch of supply and demand may be a reality in the future.

Review of the Literature

Bowen and Schuster (1986) analyzed faculty retirement patterns within the United States and projected impending change during the 1990s. Aggregate figures were used to study doctoral supply and demand. They predicted a high turnover among senior faculty and a lack of doctorally prepared replacements. This judgment was based on 500 interviews conducted at 38 varied colleges and universities located in all parts of the country. Although Blum (199Oa) has cited a more moderate increase in faculty retirements, faculty are responding to the enticement of early retirement incentives. Breneman (1988) has called for a field-by-field analysis of retirement patterns. One could speculate that the downsizing trend in corporate America is being paralleled in higher education. This trend, coupled with faculty retirements, indicates that a lack of qualified professors could become a reality.

Table

TABLE 1Characteristics of Faculty

TABLE 1

Characteristics of Faculty

Schuster and Wheeler (1990) have predicted a bipolar professorate of senior and junior faculty. Novice faculty need a mentor and coach. On the other end of the continuum, mature faculty need assistance with retirement plans and career options. This is especially true as faculty attempt to adjust to the changing of the mandatory retirement age in 1994 (Holden & Hansen, 1989). Yet, in a national survey, only 20% of the responding senior college and university administrators (N= 456) view this change as a potential problem (El-Khawas, 1989). Results from this project sponsored by the American Council on Education indicated that it takes longer to find qualified candidates in the search process. The question resounds: Will qualified faculty be available and can universities afford to hire them?

Two studies (Bowen & Sosa, 1989; D'Arms, 1990) expressed concern about the shortage of doctorally prepared graduates anticipated to enter academe. Disciplines such as business, arts and sciences, and health professions are expected to be affected. On the other hand, Blum (199Ob) has noted a rise in applications to doctoral programs in this country. However, Jacobson (1991, p. Al) makes a blunt and alarming forecast:

A shortage of new PhD holders, combined with widespread retirements among senior faculty members, will damage instruction at four-year colleges and universities. Hie traditional scholarly underpinnings of the curriculum will decline as institutions are forced to hire more instructors who are comparatively uninvolved in academic research or other efforts to stay current in their fields.

The situation may be more acute in nursing, where the lack of qualified faculty is being touted as the "newest" nursing shortage ("More Students," 1991). Whereas some nursing programs have grown in size, a recessionary economy has led to faculty shortages and other resource cutbacks ("Educators Brace," 1992).

There is a paucity of research on the factors influencing retention and attrition of nurse educators in higher education. Lambert (1991) distributed a questionnaire to the entire population of nurse educators in Arkansas. One hundred thirty-six nurse educators (65%) currently employed in educational settings and 36 (55%) who left the institutions since May 1984 participated. They cited 293 factors influencing retention and 256 factors influencing attrition rates. Convenient work schedules and interpersonal relations with students and peers were the major factors influencing the faculty to stay in nursing education. Employment changes of a spouse, working conditions, interpersonal relations, and retirement were variables that had an effect on the attrition group. Administrators must be sensitive to these issues if qualified faculty are to be recruited and retained in schools of nursing.

A concern about the projected shortage of nursing faculty prompted the researchers to pursue this national inquiry. The purpose of the study was to describe the current and projected faculty profile, policies related to retirement, and projected replacements for schools of nursing over the next 15 years.

Research Questions

These research questions were addressed in this study:

1. What are the characteristics of responding institutions and faculty?

2. What are the characteristics of policies related to retirement in participating institutions?

3. What are the projected patterns of retiring nursing faculty over the next 15 years?

4. Were schools able to recruit faculty during the past 10 years?

5. What is the current and anticipated availability of qualified faculty by specialization?

6. How many master's and doctorally prepared students are expected to graduate in specific clinical and role areas over the next five years?

Methodology

For this descriptive study, questionnaires were mailed to all baccalaureate and higher degree nursing programs (N =5 14) accredited by the National League for Nursing (NLN, 1991). A separate section of the questionnaire inquiring about the number of master's and doctoral students projected to graduate in the next five years was mailed only to those schools listed as having a graduate program (N= 158). The sample consisted of 306 returned questionnaires. Since 10 schools declined to respond to the survey, 296 (58%) were analyzed. Not all sections or questions of the survey were answered by each respondent, which accounts for missing data. The procedures for the protection of human subjects were followed.

Table

TABLE 2Characteristics of Policies/Procedures Related to Retirement

TABLE 2

Characteristics of Policies/Procedures Related to Retirement

The instrument, Nursing Faculty Profile, used for this descriptive study, was adapted from a tool developed by Crase and Hamrick (1990). Face validity was established by sending the questionnaire to six nationally known nurse educators/administrators to review. Comments from the expert reviewers were analyzed and the questionnaire was revised based on suggestions. The questionnaire consisted of four sections: demographic characteristics of the institutions and faculty; characteristics of policies and procedures related to retirement; current and anticipated availability of qualified faculty by specialty area; and, to schools with graduate programs, projected number of graduate students to meet future needs.

For purposes of this study, projected patterns of retiring nursing faculty were defined by the number of tenure, tenure-line, and temporary/contract faculty anticipated to retire over the next 15 years. The number of master's and doctorally prepared nurses available to meet the projected need was defined by an actual count of the number of master's and doctoral students projected to graduate by specialty areas reported in the survey over the next five years. Descriptive statistics were used to analyze data.

Findings

What are the demographic characteristics of the responding institutions? Types of institutions participating were public (49.1%), private (48.4%), and secular (2.5%). The majority of institutions (64.2%) had less than 8,000 students. About one quarter (25.5%) enrolled between 8,000 and 20,000 students, and only 10.3% had more than 20,000 students. About 90% of the individuals that filled out the survey held the position of Dean/Director/Chair of the nursing academic unit. The size of the unit was reported by number of students in each program. The mean number of students reported per program was baccalaureate X = 274, master's X = 98, and doctoral X = 34.

Since we were also interested in characteristics of faculty, we requested information related to gender, age, race, and appointment status, as shown in Table 1. Findings revealed that about 96% of faculty are female. The peak range was 41 to 50 years of age (43%). There was a lesser but almost equal distribution of faculty 40 years and younger (28%) and those 51 to 60 years of age (24%). We requested the actual number of faculty in the academic department and determined a mean, which averaged about 21 faculty per nursing unit. Race was reported by categories of nonminority, African American, and ethnic minority. About one faculty per nursing unit was in the minority category with the same number of minorities holding tenure. The educational foundation of faculty was divided equally between doctoral and master's preparation. In addition to faculty already holding doctorates, an average of three out of 21 faculty per nursing unit in this sample were working on doctorates.

Employment status (number of tenure, tenure-line, or temporary/contract faculty) was obtained by having respondents write actual numbers of faculty employed by category (Table 1). Nursing units reported about one third each for tenure, tenure-line, and temporary/contract faculty. Thirty-two respondents reported that a tenure system was not in place in their institution.

What are the characteristics of policies/procedures related to retirement? As can be seen in Table 2, information about institutional policies and procedures related to retirement shows that more than three quarters of the institutions do not have a mandatory retirement age. Further, 63% do not have incentives for early retirements. Although almost half the institutions offer systematic retirement planning opportunities for staff, almost 80% stated that they were not currently reviewing any type of faculty retirement plan. The majority (86%) do not anticipate that lifting the mandatory retirement age in 1994 will have an effect on their academic unit (Table 2).

What are the projected retirement patterns over the next 15 years? Other important information needed to answer the research questions was related to projected retirements and voluntary resignations. Actual numbers were recorded for projected retirements and resignations and the means were determined for the 1992-2006 period. This estimate totaled to an average of six retirements per nursing unit in 15 years. Voluntary resignations were not anticipated to be more than an average of two per nursing unit over the next 15 years. One could project that attrition of eight faculty per nursing unit would be an estimated one third of the current faculty work force.

Table

TABLE 3Recruitment of Qualified Faculty During the Past Decade

TABLE 3

Recruitment of Qualified Faculty During the Past Decade

Have schools been able to recruit qualified faculty during the period of 1981-1991? As noted in Table 3, the vast majority of nursing administrators could recruit full-time, tenure-track faculty during the past 10 years. Although more than half the nursing units reported a pool of qualified applicants, about 57% of respondents noted a decline in qualified applicants. Surprisingly, almost three fourths reported no increase in qualified applicants. A crucial point is that about 60% of respondents admitted to having difficulty in getting qualified applicants to accept positions.

When asked if administrators expected a decrease in available number of full-time faculty positions, respondents overwhelmingly anticipated no decrease in the available number during the next five, 10, and 15 years. Additionally, more than half (65%) expect an increase in the available number of full-time positions (Table 3).

What are the current and anticipated availability of qualified faculty by specialty area at the undergraduate level? As can be seen in Table 4, less than one fifth of the administrators said that it was difficult to find qualified faculty in the area of medical-surgical nursing. The same number believed it would not be difficult to replace faculty in this area in the future. However, about half said it was currently hard to find faculty in pediatrics and maternity/ family nursing, and about 40% believed that this situation will continue. Additionally, about one third said it is now difficult and will remain difficult to recruit community health and psychiatric/mental health faculty. The majority of school administrators do not believe that it is difficult to find qualified faculty to teach in specialty areas at the graduate level, nor will it be difficult in the future (Table 4).

In an effort to project how many nurses would be graduating with advanced (masters and doctoral) degrees over the next five years, areas of specialization were queried. Anticipated numbers of graduates at the two levels were reported by actual number, and we totaled these numbers by area. Findings suggested that most (more than 4,500) master's students were being prepared in various specialized clinical areas, with almost half choosing adult health. Projected numbers of pediatrie, community health, and psychiatric/mental health graduates were similar to each other (about 850 students per area) over the next five years. In the area of role specialization at the master's level, preparation in administration (1,350) ranked higher than teacher education (less than 800 graduates). According to this study, more than 8,350 master's graduates are projected to be in the market place.

Graduates from doctoral programs were estimated at over 450 in five years from 14 nursing programs reporting in this study. The most doctorates will be awarded in clinical areas (over 100) with administration and teacher education nearly matched at less than 100 graduates over five years. A category designated as "other" accounted for over 150 projected graduates with nonnursing doctorates. According to this study and findings reported in the literature ("Nursing School," 1992), nonnursing doctorates continue to draw enrollment.

Table

TABLE 4Availability of Qualified Faculty in Specialty Areas

TABLE 4

Availability of Qualified Faculty in Specialty Areas

Summary and Conclusions

Conclusions from this study can be applied to responding institutions, which were about half public and haif private. The majority reported having 8,000 or fewer students. While about one fourth reported enrolling between 8,000 and 20,000 students, only 10.3% represented institutions larger than 20,000.

The nursing faculty described in this study are overwhelmingly female with the majority between the ages of 41 and 50. These findings reflect what was found in the study of the health education professorate, suggesting that there will be an even distribution of projected retirements over the next several years (Crase & Hamrick, 1990). Very few ethnic minorities grace our ranks. Whereas two thirds of the faculty in this sample hold tenure or a tenure-line position, about one third hold temporary/contract status. Since about half of our teaching faculty are master's prepared, further encouragement and resources are needed to increase the ranks of doctorally prepared faculty. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing ("Educators Brace," 1992) report supports the need for increasing the ranks of doctorally prepared faculty. This study did reveal that many faculty are currently working on doctoral degrees.

Responses to inquiries about retirement policies revealed that the majority of the institutions do not have a mandatory retirement age, incentives for early retirement, or systematic faculty planning for retirement. Additionally, few institutions (20%) report current reviews of the faculty retirement plan. Yet only 14% suggested that lifting the mandatory retirement age will have an effect on their units. Nursing administrators do not expect any decrease in the number of full-time faculty positions over the next five to 15 years. Two thirds expect a need to increase faculty positions. The vast majority could recruit tenure-track faculty over the past 10 years. However, more than half noted a decline in qualified applicants as well as difficulty in getting selected applicants to accept positions. As indicated in the AACN Report ("Educators Brace," 1992), the academic work force may be shifting to practice areas due to rising competition, competitive salaries, coupled with weak gains in faculty salaries and alternate job opportunities.

The availability of qualified faculty in specialty areas is affecting nursing programs. There is difficulty in finding faculty to teach in pediatrics, maternity/family, psychiatric, and community health courses in undergraduate nursing programs. According to the AACN Report ("Educators Brace," 1992), academic budget cutbacks have decreased the applicant pool for new faculty. Hospitals have successfully recruited master's level faculty into clinical specialty areas. It is anticipated that this will remain the case. At the graduate level, it is not currently nor anticipated to be difficult to find qualified faculty to teach. Probably, doctorally prepared individuals eagerly fill this need.

The projected estimate for faculty retirements is about 1,800 faculty over the next 15 years, from this sample of 296 nursing units. About 600 nursing faculty are expected to resign during this time frame. About 450 students are expected to graduate in the next five years at the doctoral level from 14 programs reported in this study. It is anticipated that more than 8,350 nurses will graduate in all areas at the master's level from 55 schools reporting master's programs. It would appear that adequate numbers of graduates are being prepared, at least at the master's level.

However, findings from this study suggest a shortfall in doctorally prepared nurse graduates, since estimated replacements would total only about half of expected losses. It is not known how many will choose education as a career path, nor what future incentives will develop in the service arena. There is the possibility of a significant number of faculty members retiring or resigning and having an inadequate supply of doctorally prepared nurses over the next 15 years, as noted in other fields (Bowen & Schuster, 1986; Bowen & Sosa, 1989; Breneman, 1988; DArms, 1990; "Educators Brace," 1992; Jacobson, 1991; Mangan, 1992; "More Students," 1991). This deficiency of qualified nursing faculty parallels what is being discussed in the literature. The problem facing the profession is that the scholarly underpinning of the curriculum may decline due to an inadequate number of doctorally prepared faculty.

Implications

Institutional mergers, organizational restructuring, downsizing, and educational and financial accountability seem to dominate educational discussions today. These realities will affect nursing programs in this decade. Lifting the mandatory retirement age may have unforeseen effects on nursing education. Since we do not know if funds will be available to replace or upgrade faculty positions, implications call for an examination of retirement policies, employment patterns, and incentives. As Lambert (1991) suggested, administrators must be sensitive to retention and attrition factors. Recruitment efforts should target male and ethnic minority candidates to enter nursing education. Positive results would be a concerted effort to promote cultural diversity among nursing faculty.

Due to possible shortages in specialty areas, prospective students in clinical areas, such as maternal/child and psychiatric nursing, should be recruited to graduate programs with lucrative scholarships and stipends. The number of nurses being prepared in community health at the master's level is of concern since the health care system is becoming more dependent upon community care "From Hospitals," 1992). A future lack of faculty is a possibility.

Nursing program administrators do not expect a decrease in the available number of faculty positions but anticipate a need for an increase in full-time employees, due to expanding programs and the continued need for nurses. Since graduate prepared nurses are increasingly filling gaps in service areas, implications call for an examination and possible shift in clinical teaching practices. Nursing faculty should think about restructuring the current model of faculty supervision of undergraduate students in clinical areas.

The use of nurse clinicians and faculty as co-teachers may be an increasingly common approach to nursing education in view of the anticipated shortfall of doctorally prepared nurses. Clinicians have expertise in practice, and faculty have curricular experience. This should make for a complementary, beneficial relationship for all concerned. However, stronger partnerships between education and practice models need to be developed if the profession is to continue to supply highly qualified faculty and practitioners.

Such ground-breaking work as depicted in the Colorado differentiated practice model for nursing may become the norm for the profession as we advance toward the 21st century (Falco, 1992).

The academic community, which was once the isolated domain of scholars, now includes practitioners, community and business leaders, and representatives of the foundation and public policy worlds as active partners in meeting its mission (NLN, 1992, p. 2).

A view of academia in this broader sense must emerge as higher education itself is being challenged for public accountability and professional relevance.

References

  • Slum, D.E. (199Oa, April 4). More moderate increase in faculty retirements predicted in new study. The Chronicle of Higher Education, p. Al.
  • BIum, D.E. (199Ob, March 14). Rise in application to Ph.D. programs reported at universities across country. The Chronicle of Higher Education, p. Al.
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  • More students, fewer resources: State schools feel recession impact on nursing education. (1991, July). AACN Issue Bulletin, pp. 1-4.
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TABLE 1

Characteristics of Faculty

TABLE 2

Characteristics of Policies/Procedures Related to Retirement

TABLE 3

Recruitment of Qualified Faculty During the Past Decade

TABLE 4

Availability of Qualified Faculty in Specialty Areas

10.3928/0148-4834-19940201-06

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