Journal of Nursing Education

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Research Brief 

Faculty Retirement: Stemming the Tide

Martha Foxall, PhD, RN, FAAN; Mary Erickson Megel, PhD, RN; Karen Grigsby, PhD, RN; Judith Sims Billings, PhD, RN

Abstract

 

Click here to read a Letter to the Editor about this article. 

The shortage of nursing faculty is becoming a crisis in schools of nursing and is contributing to the shortage of qualified graduates to add to the nursing workforce. Aging and retirement of existing faculty contribute to the crisis. Creating retention initiatives may encourage faculty to postpone retirement. This article explored the conditions and situations which would entice faculty to continue working beyond their intended retirement date. Faculty identified workload and responsibilities, available resources, personal and professional characteristics, and work environment as areas that could be developed into incentives to remain in the faculty workforce.

Abstract

 

Click here to read a Letter to the Editor about this article. 

The shortage of nursing faculty is becoming a crisis in schools of nursing and is contributing to the shortage of qualified graduates to add to the nursing workforce. Aging and retirement of existing faculty contribute to the crisis. Creating retention initiatives may encourage faculty to postpone retirement. This article explored the conditions and situations which would entice faculty to continue working beyond their intended retirement date. Faculty identified workload and responsibilities, available resources, personal and professional characteristics, and work environment as areas that could be developed into incentives to remain in the faculty workforce.

Drs. Foxall and Billings are Emeritus Professors, Dr. Megel is Associate Professor, and Dr. Grigsby is Associate Professor and Department Chair, Families and Health Systems, University of Nebraska Medical Center, College of Nursing, Omaha, Nebraska.

The authors thank Gail Hille, Audrey Nelson, Cheryl West, Debra Flearl, Tara Kuipers, Tom Mason, and Jill Thewke, additional members of the Task Force Committee, for their work on this project.

Address correspondence to Mary Erickson Megel, PhD, RN, Associate Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center, College of Nursing, 985330 Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE 68198-5330; e-mail: mmegel@unmc.edu.

Received: February 23, 2006
Accepted: August 09, 2007

Nurse educators are essential in preparing a workforce that will provide quality health care to meet society’s needs. The shrinking pool of faculty across the country limits the capacity to educate students, as the need for professional RNs continues to grow. According to a report by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) (2005), aging and retirement of the existing faculty workforce contribute to this crisis. In 2004, the average age of nursing faculty was 54.3 for faculty with doctorate degrees and 49.2 for faculty with master’s degrees (AACN, 2005). Between 200 and 300 doctorally prepared faculty will be eligible for retirement each year from 2004 through 2012, and between 220 to 280 master’s-prepared faculty will be eligible for retirement between 2012 and 2018 (AACN, 2005). By 2016 in the state of Nebraska, 26% of current faculty will be eligible for retirement (Maize, 2006). Usually after nursing faculty retire, they do not return to the academic environment and their expertise is lost (AACN, 2005).

Strategies have been suggested to address the shortage of aging workers in both corporate and academic work environments. In the corporate sector, the workplace is often viewed as the workers’ primary social affiliation (Dychtwald, Erickson, & Morison, 2004). Mature workers are attracted to an environment in which their experience and capabilities are valued; therefore, if the environment is viewed as supportive, workers are more likely to remain longer or return after retiring. In nursing, Bellack (2004), Mathews (2003), and Hinshaw (2001) offered suggestions for retaining productive senior faculty. Bellack (2004) emphasized financial incentives, flexible part-time assignments, and contracting retired faculty for specific initiatives. Mathews (2003) suggested that older faculty be provided ongoing development resources to learn new technology and nontraditional teaching skills needed in high-tech classrooms and clinical areas. Hinshaw (2001) discussed phasing in retirement plans gradually and establishing “intellectual homes” to take advantage of the leadership abilities and expertise of senior faculty (¶ 31).

Only one study was found that examined factors influencing faculty’s decisions about the time of retirement (Kowalski, Dalley, & Weigand, 2006). A survey of 129 faculty at 61 nursing schools revealed that financial preparedness was the factor most influential in the decision to retire. Workplace issues, personal and family health, and attitudes about retirement were also factors that influenced the retirement date. Although these authors proposed ideas, opinions, and strategies regarding retention of retiring workers, no other studies were found addressing faculty’s expressed views of factors that would entice them to remain in the workplace beyond retirement age. The purpose of this article is to describe faculty opinions of these conditions.

Method

In the summer of 2004 and the fall of 2006, two questions were e-mailed to all current and emeritus faculty on all four campuses of a large midwestern university college of nursing. The survey questions were:

  • What conditions or situations would entice you to work beyond your intended day of retirement?
  • What would make you work 3 or 4 more years?

Data Collection and Analysis

The initial data used for this report were part of a larger data set gathered during the summer of 2004 for long range planning at the college of nursing (N = 110). Because of a relatively small response rate (32%) in 2004, the same questions were e-mailed to all current and emeritus faculty (N = 150) again in the fall of 2006, which increased the response rate to 41% (combining 2004 responses with 2006 responses; those who responded in both 2004 and 2006 were only counted once when determining response rate). Institutional review board approval was obtained for the survey. Faculty were notified that responses to the questions constituted their approval to participate in the survey. Faculty were informed that their e-mail responses could be returned to one of the authors (M.E.M.) or, if anonymity was desired, to a college of nursing staff member for removal of identifying information. The verbatim responses were reviewed by the authors, responses were descriptively tabulated, and content categories were identified.

Results

Demographics

Responses to the combined surveys (2004 and 2006) were received from 62 of the 150 faculty members (41%). Six individuals requested that identifying information be removed from their responses; therefore, demographic information was available for 56 faculty members (Table 1). The majority of respondents were female, full-time employees, Caucasian American, and either associate or assistant professors. Average age of total faculty (mean = 52.8, range = 27 to 77) was slightly lower than the sample (mean = 56.5, range = 29 to 77). The characteristics of the sample differed from the total faculty because few part-time faculty and instructors responded to the survey, compared with their total numbers. Because part-time faculty at the instructor rank tend to be involved in clinical instruction only and are younger than full-time faculty, they may have believed the survey was not applicable to them.

Demographic Characteristics of the Sample

Table 1: Demographic Characteristics of the Sample

Categories

When asked which conditions would entice them to continue teaching beyond retirement age, participants provided a total of 220 discrete suggestions. These were grouped into four categories: workload and responsibilities, available resources, personal and professional characteristics, and work environment (Table 2).

Conditions or Situations that Would Entice Faculty to Work past Retirement Age

Table 2: Conditions or Situations that Would Entice Faculty to Work past Retirement Age

Workload and Responsibilities. Many responses (46%) included workload and work responsibility suggestions. Overwhelmingly, the respondents suggested that part-time work would entice them to work beyond retirement age. Additional descriptors for this suggestion included: “flexible schedule,” “able to take a vacation when I want to,” “a lighter teaching load,” and “job sharing.” A few faculty mentioned wanting time to mentor new or inexperienced faculty; these individuals wished to coach and guide younger faculty coming up behind them. Working on specific, time-limited projects of their choice was also a suggestion by a few faculty, as was the opportunity for a sabbatical. In this category, along with flexibility of scheduling their part-time responsibilities, faculty wanted to “control [their] own hours.”

Available Resources. Twenty-five percent of the responses addressed financial, human, and space resources that would facilitate their working beyond retirement age. The largest number of suggestions were for an equitable salary with benefits for the amount of time the individual was contracted to work. Some sort of monetary bonus or grant was also desirable, along with adequate work space and support from information technologists. A few individuals noted that working beyond retirement depended somewhat on their own financial stability at the time, and the need for continued income might provide incentive to continue to work. Retaining adequate office and parking space while retired and availability of information technology support for part-time work were concerns for a small number of faculty.

Personal and Professional Characteristics. Almost 20% of faculty mentioned that the need for continued intellectual stimulation and “exciting work I enjoy” would be incentives to continue to work. However, adequate personal health was a prerequisite to continued employment. One individual wrote, “[I need] a mind that can still remember and the ability to walk up one flight of stairs.” A corollary to health was the disincentive of being required to perform exhausting clinical supervision of undergraduate students, which three faculty mentioned would cause them to think twice about working past retirement age. Several faculty noted that they would continue to work if they felt they were making a contribution to important initiatives “that mattered.”

Work Environment. The smallest number of responses (9%) involved suggestions for the environment that would entice them to remain employed after retirement age. Along with a “friendly, supportive work environment,” several individuals mentioned the need to feel valued and appreciated for their efforts. As one individual noted, “It would be nice to be told that the college of nursing values older faculty and that they would like me to stay.” Working in a relaxed environment and being able to work with other retired peers were also desired. A few faculty wanted to be able to work from home using distance strategies.

General Conditions and Situations

Most of all, faculty wanted a voice in their assignments, control over time commitments, and a flexible schedule that allowed them to participate in outside activities or to care for family members with health problems. As faculty aged, clinical supervision of students became more challenging. Faculty voiced less willingness to continue to work unless their clinical assignments could be altered so that the work was less physically demanding. Faculty did not want to continue working if responsibilities continued to escalate, clinical teaching of undergraduate students continued to be an expectation, and salary and benefits were unacceptable.

Discussion and Conclusion

This brief survey is limited by the involvement of faculty at only one college of nursing and the small sample size. However, the results of the survey suggested that nursing faculty may be enticed to continue to work beyond retirement age if certain incentives are offered. Although our findings differ in order of identified priority from other published research (Kowalski et al., 2006), the suggestions and concerns are consistent with those of other authors (AACN, 2005; Bellack, 2004; Dychtwald et al., 2004; Hinshaw, 2001). Although themes emerged from all the responses to our survey, the faculty themselves differed in terms of priorities assigned to the various incentives they suggested. For example, some faculty strongly believed that salary was the most important incentive; others stated that salary was less important than providing a valued service to the college. Therefore, we conclude that findings from our survey may be useful in developing a diversified, delayed retirement program for faculty. Administrators in colleges and schools of nursing should explore aspects of faculty work that are incentives as well as disincentives to working past retirement age with their faculty (AACN, 2005). Strategies that will entice faculty to fulfill their academic mission after their planned retirement date must be initiated, and the time to do so is now.

References

  • American Association of Colleges of Nursing. 2005. Faculty shortages in baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs: Scope of the problem and strategies for expanding the supply. Retrieved December 20, 2006, from http://www.aacn.nche.edu/Publications/WhitePapers/FacultyShortages.htm
  • Bellack, JP2004. One solution to the faculty shortage: Begin at the end. Journal of Nursing Education, 43, 243–244.
  • Dychtwald, K, Erickson, T & Morison, B. 2004. It’s time to retire retirement [Electronic version]. Harvard Business Review, 82, 48–57, 126.
  • Hinshaw, AS2001. The nursing shortage: A continuing challenge: The shortage of educationally prepared nursing faculty. Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, 6, Article 3. Retrieved September 7, 2005, from http://www.nursingworld.org/MainMenuCategories/ANAMarketplace/ANAPeriodicals/OJIN/TableofContents/Volume62001/No1Jan01/ShortageofEducationalFaculty.aspx
  • Kowalski, SD, Dalley, K & Weigand, T2006. When will faculty retire? Factors influencing retirement decisions of nurse educators. Journal of Nursing Education, 45, 349–355.
  • Maize, K2006. Nursing faculty shortage: A view of Nebraska nursing faculty demographics. Nebraska Nursing News, 234, 27.
  • Mathews, MB2003. Resourcing nursing education through collaboration. The Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing, 34, 251–257.

Demographic Characteristics of the Sample

CharacteristicTotal Faculty, 2006 (N = 150)Sample, 2004 + 2006 (N = 56)
Employment
  Full-time99 (66%)51 (91%)
  Part-time21 (14%)2 (4%)
  Emeritus (retired)30 (20%)3 (5%)
Ethnicity
  Caucasian American147 (98%)55 (98%)
  African American1 (<1%)0 (0%)
  Asian American1 (<1%)1 (2%)
  Hispanic American1 (<1%)0 (0%)
Gender
  Female147 (98%)56 (100%)
  Male3 (2%)0 (0%)
Rank
  Full professor15 (10%)8 (14%)
  Associate professor41 (27%)20 (36%)
  Assistant professor45 (30%)21 (38%)
  Instructor49 (33%)7 (12%)

Conditions or Situations that Would Entice Faculty to Work past Retirement Age

Categoryn (%)
Workload and responsibilities102 (46)
  Part-time work90 (41)
  Time to mentor5 (2)
  Time-limited projects5 (2)
  Sabbatical2 (1)
Available resources55 (25)
  Salary20 (9)
  Benefits11 (5)
  Monetary bonus or grant9 (4)
  Adequate work space4 (2)
  Own financial investments3 (1)
  Information technology support3 (1)
  Other5 (2)
Personal and professional characteristics43 (20)
  Need for intellectual stimulation10 (5)
  Health18 (8)
  Ability to contribute13 (6)
  Other2 (1)
Work environment20 (9)
  Supportive environment10 (4)
  Feeling valued8 (4)
  Other2 (1)
Total220 (100)
Authors

Drs. Foxall and Billings are Emeritus Professors, Dr. Megel is Associate Professor, and Dr. Grigsby is Associate Professor and Department Chair, Families and Health Systems, University of Nebraska Medical Center, College of Nursing, Omaha, Nebraska.

Address correspondence to Mary Erickson Megel, PhD, RN, Associate Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center, College of Nursing, 985330 Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE 68198-5330; e-mail: .mmegel@unmc.edu

10.3928/01484834-20090301-07

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