Turnover of nurse faculty is receiving increasing attention in schools and colleges of nursing as the available number of qualified faculty declines. Understanding factors that contribute to turnover and designing interventions to retain nurse faculty in existing positions is especially important, given that the nursing profession is facing a critical shortage of qualified faculty. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) (1997) reported that in 2003–2004, only 50.2% of all nursing faculty teaching in baccalaureate and higher degree programs were doctorally prepared. This percentage remained virtually unchanged in 2008, with only 51% of nurse faculty prepared at the doctoral level (AACN, 2008).
The shortage of doctorally prepared nurse faculty has major consequences for the nursing profession. The insufficient number of qualified nurse faculty has already begun to limit the number of students who can be educated. Although nursing schools have been able to increase student enrollment in recent years, 54,991 qualified applications to baccalaureate nursing programs were turned away in 2009, including more than 9,500 applications to master’s and doctoral degree programs (AACN, 2010a). The top identified reason for not accepting qualified students into nursing programs continues to be a lack of faculty (AACN, 2010a). Doctorally prepared faculty are required in academia to conduct nursing research and disseminate knowledge. Because of the inadequate numbers of doctorally prepared nurses in academia, the ability to advance the scientific knowledge base of the profession will be compromised.
The multifaceted nurse faculty role is difficult to describe as faculty struggle with the diverse roles of educator, grant writer, researcher, clinician, role model, and scholar. A heightened faculty recognition of organizational climate, work roles, work role stress, and organizational commitment may help faculty select employment in schools that have environments that meet their individual needs (person-job fit) and decrease turnover of nurse faculty (Gormley & Kennerly, 2010).
The purpose of this study was a secondary analysis of data examining the predictors of turnover intention in nurse faculty working in departments and colleges of nursing in Carnegie Doctoral/Research Universities–Extensive, public and private, not-for-profit institutions (Gormley, 2005). The original study examined the relationships between organizational climate, role conflict, role ambiguity, faculty work roles, organizational commitment, and turnover intention (Gormley, 2005; Gormley & Kennerly, 2010).
The multidimensional model for organizational commitment proposed by Meyer and Allen (1997) was used to frame this study. The three dimensions of organizational commitment were affective, continuance, and normative. Affective commitment is related to the employee’s desire to be a part of the organization, whereas employees with continuance commitment remain in the organization because of a sense of limited options. Normative commitment refers to commitment based on the employee’s feelings of a need to remain. Meyer and Allen (1991) hypothesized these dimensions developed in different ways, had discrete antecedents, and had clear effects on predicted outcomes, such as turnover intention. The predictor variables explored in this study were organizational climate, work role balance, role ambiguity, and role conflict. The work roles examined as components of work role balance were research, teaching, and service. The outcome variable examined was turnover intention.
Many studies have been undertaken to determine the extent to which affective organizational commitment and turnover were related. Early studies showed predictive correlations across the various groups studied, including scientists, engineers, psychiatric technicians, transit workers, and management trainees (Angle & Perry, 1981; Hom, Katerberg, & Hulin, 1979; Porter, Crampon, & Smith, 1976; Porter, Steers, Mowday, & Boulian, 1974). In these four studies, low to moderately significant correlations of 0.243 to 0.674 (p ≤ 0.05) were found between affective commitment and subsequent turnover.
Several researchers have examined turnover in non-nurse faculty (Daly & Dee, 2006; Honeyman & Summers, 1994; Xu, 2008). Honeyman and Summers (1994) explored influences associated with the attrition of non-nurse faculty. The study sought to ascertain turnover levels at the university and the reasons why faculty were leaving. The authors found that women and ethnic minorities in this sample left in exceptionally high numbers, with 42% of the faculty having left for work at other academic institutions and 43% having left academia to work in other industries, for a total attrition rate of 85%. Also, lower ranking faculty left academia more often than did higher ranking faculty, and this was not associated with tenure review cycles. Daly and Dee (2006) explored urban university faculty’s intention to stay related to work environment characteristics, including autonomy, communication openness, distributive justice, role conflict, and workload. All work characteristics had small to moderate significant correlation to faculty intention to stay (r = 0.298 to 0.689, p ≤ 0.05).
Xu (2008) investigated how the discipline variations for faculty influence faculty turnover behaviors. Nursing was not included in this examination of faculty. Xu found that discipline-specific characteristics were related to faculty’s turnover intention. Characteristics examined included demographic information, workload and productivity, perceptions of satisfaction, and work environment. The findings of diverse disciplines in university settings identified different characteristics as important in turnover intention, although workload and productivity variables had little turnover influence for any faculty group.
Additional behaviors associated with faculty turnover were examined by Strawser, Flagg, and Holmes (2001). The turnover behaviors of tenure-track accounting professors from 1970 to 1994 were examined by comparing job dissatisfaction with unmet faculty needs. Findings demonstrated an overall decline in job satisfaction experienced by academic accountants from 1970 to 1994, particularly among assistant professors just beginning their careers. This job dissatisfaction was related to actual turnover behavior. Strawser et al. (2001) suggested that this increase in dissonance and turnover can have consequences for the university, including vacant positions, ineffective teachers and researchers, and negative perceptions of the department and the university.
Research and literature on the work role of non-nurse faculty strongly suggested that this group grappled with role conflict and role ambiguity, but these concepts, as related to nurse faculty, had not been comprehensively examined in relation to turnover intention. Findings drawn from this literature indicated that some variables generalized across populations of faculty, whereas other influences differed based on the types of faculty examined. In addition, no literature examined the influences of organizational climate, organizational commitment, role conflict, role ambiguity, and work role balance on predicting turnover intention, particularly in nursing academic environments. The research question for this exploratory study was “What are the predictors of turnover intention in nurse faculty working in department/colleges of nursing in Carnegie Doctoral/Research Universities–Extensive?”
The sample included full-time tenure-track, nurse faculty who were doctorally prepared, employed in public and private, not-for-profit, research-extensive universities that offered accredited undergraduate and graduate programs in nursing. Schools of nursing were chosen from all institutions classified as Doctoral/Research Universities–Extensive by the Carnegie Council on Policy Studies in Higher Education to achieve a sample size of 300 faculty with doctoral degrees and to fully examine the work roles of faculty in teaching, research, and service. Carnegie Doctoral/Research Universities–Extensive offered the research environment and expectation needed to examine work roles across the various missions. The participation rate of the universities was 45%.
The mean number of students in the universities was 24,017 and ranged from 3,250 to 58,000. The size of the schools of nursing ranged from 166 to 1,000 enrolled students, with a mean number of 611. Online and distance students were not included in the total enrolled because each school characterized these terms differently; it was difficult to establish a correct number and the degree to which this might influence variables.
The number of faculty in each school or college ranged from 20 to 210 (mean = 61). The number of tenured faculty ranged from 2 to 40 (mean = 14). Twenty-nine (64%) of the 45 schools reported having a shared governance organizational model, whereas 16 (36%) schools reported having a bureaucratic organizational structure. The range of nursing programs offered at each school was 3 to 7. Programs offered included BSN, RN/BSN, RN/MSN, MSN (practitioner, administration, educator, public health), PhD, and DNP. No schools offered associate degree programs in nursing.
Three hundred sixteen (59%) full-time, doctorally prepared nurse faculty members participated in the study by returning completed e-mailed questionnaires. Only completed surveys were included in the data analysis. The majority (83.2%) of the faculty had PhD degrees. Nurse faculty also reported having EdD (8.4%) and DNP degrees (8.4%). Eighty-one percent of the responding faculty were either assistant or associate professors. The number of years at the university ranged from less than 1 to 40 years (mean = 11.45 years).
Two hundred ninety-two (92%) participating nurse faculty were women and 24 (8%) were men. Two hundred eighty-one (89%) faculty were tenured. Thirty-five (11%) were not tenured. Ages of faculty ranged from 30 to 68 (mean = 52.8 years).
This nonexperimental descriptive study was conducted using an e-mailed questionnaire approach. After institutional review board approval, the academic unit head or designee was requested to complete a Nursing Academic Unit Data Form developed by the researcher that provided organizational information on the characteristics of the college or university and the nursing academic unit. After consent from the head of the academic unit was obtained, nurse faculty were asked to participate via a written e-mail request from the researcher with a hyperlink to the questionnaire. Following agreement to participate, each nurse faculty member was asked to complete a demographic questionnaire and the Role Ambiguity and Role Conflict Questionnaire (Rizzo et al., 1970), Organizational Commitment Scales (Meyer & Allen, 1991), and Organizational Climate Description Questionnaire–Higher Education (Partial) (Borrevik, 1972), as well as answer the Work Role Balance question and single-item turnover question. Total items for the questionnaire were 71. Table 1 displays the variables measured in the questionnaire. Conceptual definitions and Cronbach’s alphas for this study sample are included.
Table 1: Study Variables, Conceptual Definitions, and Scale Reliability
Zoomerang™, a survey software package, was used for collection of faculty data. The software program tracked survey responses and maintained the confidentiality of the data. Follow-up reminders were sent to nonresponders, and thank you letters were sent after a response was received. The reminder e-mail included the original survey hyperlink to facilitate faculty response.
All data received were entered into SPSS version 14 software for data analysis. Descriptive analyses were performed on organizational characteristics. Logistical regression was used to study the predictive quality of the independent variables on the turnover intention of nurse faculty. For the logistical regression analysis, the dependent variable was turnover intention (leave/no leave) and the independent variables were work role balance (research, teaching, service), role ambiguity, role conflict, organizational commitment (affective, continuance, normative), and organizational climate (consideration, intimacy, disengagement, production emphasis).
Faculty documented the perceived percentage of time spent in the past academic year on research, teaching, and service components of work role balance. The researcher then placed the percentages into rank components of low (0% to 30%), moderate (31% to 60%), and high (61% to 100%). The range of time nurse faculty spent in research was 0% to 100% (N = 316, mean = 33.92%, SD = 19.57). The mean percentages of time for low, moderate, and high research components of work role balance were 20.63% (n = 176), 44.87% (n = 106), and 68.53% (n = 34), respectively. The range of faculty time spent in teaching was 0% to 90% (N = 316, mean = 45.79%, SD = 19.37). The mean percentages of time for low, moderate, and high teaching components of work role balance were 21.55% (n = 85), 45.03% (n = 138), and 69.06% (n = 93), respectively. The range of time spent in service activities was 0% to 100% (N = 316, mean = 20.28%, SD = 14.86). The mean percentages of time for low, moderate, and high service components of work role balance were 15.69% (n = 273), 42.79% (n = 30), and 66.54% (n = 13), respectively.
A greater percentage (45.79%) of time on average was devoted to teaching followed by research (33.92%) and service (20.28%). Two nurse faculty reported spending 100% of their work time in research activities, and one faculty reported spending 100% of work time in service activities. No faculty reported spending 100% of work time in teaching activities.
Analysis of variance (ANOVA), t tests for independent groups, or both were conducted to determine sample mean differences for the nurse faculty demographic information of gender, race, age, years of work experience in the academic unit, professor rank, and the variables under investigation in the study: role ambiguity; role conflict; work role balance (research, teaching, service); organizational climate and subscales (consideration, intimacy, disengagement, production emphasis); organizational commitment (affective, continuance, and normative); and turnover intention. There were no significant mean differences noted between gender, race, and professor rank or for years at the university in mean scores for any of the study variables.
When the difference between nurse faculty age and study variables were compared, the only significant mean difference (N = 316, t = −2.7, p ≤ 0.05) was for role ambiguity. Nurse faculty younger than age 53 had a significantly higher mean score (mean = 17.38) on role ambiguity than did faculty older than age 53 (mean = 15.32). Faculty who were tenured had a significantly higher mean percentage (n = 281, t = 3.6, p ≤ 0.05) for research (mean = 35.35%) than did nontenured faculty (n = 35, mean = 22.79%). Nontenured faculty had a significantly higher mean percentage (t = 3.95, p ≤ 0.05) for teaching (mean = 57.79%) than did tenured faculty (mean = 44.23%). No other differences were found between demographic and study variables.
Logical regression was performed on the data to calculate the contribution of organizational climate, role ambiguity, role conflict, work role balance, and organizational commitment on nurse faculty intention to leave their job within the next year. Logistical regression was chosen over other statistical analyses because logical regression supposes a dichotomous dependent variable whereas the other regression models do not (Hilbe, 2009; Stevens, 1996). Table 2 displays the Hosmer and Lemeshow’s test for goodness of fit. All chi-square analyses show no significance, signifying the appropriateness of the logistical regression model for statistical analysis of the predictors of turnover intention. The logistical regression model for nurse faculty to leave their job or not leave their job is shown in Table 3 (n = 313). Three faculty did not respond to the turnover question. The independent variables are work role balance, role ambiguity, role conflict, organizational commitment, and organizational climate. The dependent variable was nurse faculty turnover intention. Table 4 depicted step 7 of the logistic model when nonsignificant independent variables were removed.
Table 2: Hosmer and Lemeshow Test for Goodness of Fit
Table 3: Logistical Model Classification of Nurse Faculty Intention to Leave Job (N = 313)
Table 4: Logistic Model when Nonsignificant Independent Variables Are Removed (N = 313)
The Hosmer and Lemeshow test for goodness of fit confirmed that the data fit the logistical model. Step 6 of the logistical regression model showed the highest probability of predicting intention to leave at 76.7%; however, service was insignificant at p ≤ 0.31. Therefore, Table 3 shows that step 7 had the highest probability of predicting nurse faculty intention to leave at 76% (p ≤ 0.10), and all predictors were statistically significant at p ≤ 0.05. Included in step 7 of the logistical model were the independent variables affective commitment, continuance commitment, organizational climate intimacy, organizational climate disengagement, and role ambiguity (Table 4). Organizational climate consideration, and organizational climate production emphasis, role conflict, and work role balance (research, teaching, service) did not increase the probability of nurse faculty intention to leave in this sample of nurse faculty.
Discussion and Implications
The results of this study were anticipated to assist academic unit heads in colleges of nursing, as well as nurse faculty, in identifying key workplace issues, as perceived by nurse faculty; this knowledge would assist in the development of strategies to address and improve the working conditions for faculty, which can help predict turnover intention. Our findings suggest that turnover intention is more likely to occur if nurse faculty experience poor working relationships with their academic unit head and coworkers, unclear work expectations, and disagreement on relevant norms. Alternately, if faculty experience positive working relationships and clarity in their work role, turnover retention may be less likely to be experienced.
These findings are similar to findings in the literature. The literature frequently cites difficulty with role expectations as a dissatisfier for nurse faculty and is documented as a reason for leaving academia (Daly & Dee, 2006; Fain, 1987; Haussler, 1988; Hinshaw, 2001; Miller & Anderson, 2002; Mobily, 1991; Schuster, 1986). Change in academia is ever-present—in the way higher education is conducted, in the way classroom teaching is accomplished, in the emphasis on research productivity, in the characteristics of the students, and in the established roles of research, teaching, and service (AACN, 2010b). These changes are challenging faculty, requiring more time and preparation, and may contribute to faculty turnover intention.
According to the literature, the climate of the organizational setting is also a significant influence on turnover intention (Daly & Dee, 2006; Honeyman & Summers, 1994; Horn, 1995; Mobley, 1977). Issues such as work environment, leadership qualities, low morale, socialization experiences, and academic emphasis were cited as influencing factors in the organizational climate of academic setting and in the turnover intention of faculty.
In this study of nurse faculty, affective and continuance organizational commitment were predictive of turnover intention. As dimensions of organizational commitment increase, whether the commitment is affective or continuance, the intention to turnover decreases. This finding supports the theoretical framework of the study, which delineates that turnover intention is positively influenced by all dimensions of organizational commitment (Meyer & Allen, 1991, 1993).
However, all dimensions of organizational commitment have different consequences for productivity for workers. Based on findings in the literature and the theoretical model, if workers are affectively committed to their organization, the consequences of productivity, performance, citizenship, attendance, and well-being are enhanced (Daly & Dee, 2006; Dua, 1994; Mathieu & Zajac, 1990; Meyer & Allen, 1991; Tett & Meyer, 1993). However, if workers’ organizational commitment is continuance, the consequences associated with productivity, performance, citizenship, attendance, and well-being are negatively affected. Thus, the relationships between dimensions of organizational commitment and work role and productivity need to be further examined in academic settings.
Work role balance and role conflict were not significant predictors of turnover intention in this study; however, these factors have been shown to be significant influences on organizational commitment and perceptions of work climate, and they need to be considered when evaluating turnover intention in nurse faculty (Gormley & Kennerly, 2010). The authors found that perceived work role balance, role ambiguity, and role conflict significantly influenced perceptions of organizational climate and commitment, and they suggested that work role expectations are a concern for nurse faculty and may play an important role in retention (Gormley & Kennerly, 2010).
Findings suggest that turnover intention among faculty may be deterred if academic administrators support work environments that enhance dimensions of affective commitment and organizational climate. Improving nurse faculty association with the various roles of the academician through mentoring of the roles in teaching, research and service activities, and developing work environments that support collegiality and healthy working relationships with other faculty and administrators may improve recruitment and retention of new and seasoned nurse faculty.
The research design and data collection in this study examined only internal personal and organizational influences on nurse faculty and did not address perceived competence or confidence in their roles nor the possible external influences that may affect individual faculty member’s organizational commitment and turnover intention. External influences related to spouse or partner, family, or the university could significantly affect dimensions of organizational commitment and turnover intention. Future research should examine nurse faculty perceptions of competency and confidence in their work roles and the contribution of external influences, such as university structure and climate, to nurse faculty organizational commitment and turnover intention.
Recruitment of faculty for this study could also be a limiting factor. The researcher was dependent on approval of the academic unit head of the school of nursing to access nurse faculty for recruitment. Several academic unit heads did not respond to the invitation to participate in this study, and thereby the faculty at those institutions were excluded from participating. How these faculty would have responded to the questionnaire is unknown, but their responses could have been very different from those of faculty who did respond.
Recommendations for Future Study
This study is replicable, but the generalizability is limited. The sample was drawn from only Carnegie Research/Doctoral Universities–Extensive, and only from full-time, doctorally prepared, tenure-track nurse faculty. Broader research should be conducted to examine the influence of organizational climate, role ambiguity, role conflict, work role balance, and organizational commitment on turnover intention in other types of universities and schools of nursing.
Prior research suggests that some faculty groups may be more affectively committed to their organization than others (Harshbarger, 1989; Neumann & Finaly-Neumann, 1990; Xu, 2008). Because of the investment in their career, and the socialization process of tenure, tenured and tenure-track faculty can be expected to have higher levels of affective and normative commitment and thus less turnover. This study explored only tenure and tenure-track nurse faculty and did find higher levels of affective and normative commitment in this sample. Further research exploring patterns of potential differences in faculty commitment and turnover intention across groups would be valuable, including multidimensional organizational commitment and turnover intention of nontenure-track faculty, master’s-prepared nurse faculty, part-time faculty, and clinical instructors.
Academic unit heads are responsible for creating and influencing the organizational environment of their departments and colleges, and the functionality of the academic department depends in part on their leadership ability. Academic unit heads are responsible for creating a shared vision for the department and are charged with motivating faculty members and encouraging scholarship. Future research should examine the influence of leadership on the study variables of organizational climate, role ambiguity, role conflict, work role balance, organizational commitment, and turnover intention in nurse faculty.
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Study Variables, Conceptual Definitions, and Scale Reliability
|Questionnaire||Conceptual Definitions||Cronbach’s Alpha|
|Role Ambiguity and Role Conflict Questionnaire (Rizzo, House, & Lirtzman, 1970)||Role ambiguity: lack of clarity in role expectations and disagreement on relevant norms||0.88|
|Role conflict: condition in which role expectations were contradictory or mutually exclusive (Hardy & Conway, 1978)||0.83|
|Meyer and Allen Multidimensional Organizational Commitment Questionnaire (Meyers & Allen, 1991)||Organizational commitment: multidimensional psychological state that characterizes the person’s relationship with the organization in question and had implications for the decision to remain involved in the organization (Meyer & Allen, 1997)||0.73|
|Affective Commitment Subscale||Affective commitment: the employee’s emotional attachment to, identification with, and involvement in the organization (Meyer & Allen, 1991)||0.87|
|Continuance Commitment Subscale||Continuance commitment: an employee’s awareness of the personal costs associated with leaving the organization (Meyer & Allen, 1991)||0.77|
|Normative Commitment Subscale||Normative commitment: an employee’s feeling of obligation to continue employment and a sense of responsibility to the organization (Meyer & Allen, 1991)||0.45|
|Organizational Climate Description Questionnaire—Higher Education (Partial) (Borrevik, 1972)||Organizational climate: current common patterns of important elements of organizational life or its members’ perceptions of those elements (Peterson & Spencer, 1990)||0.83|
|Consideration Subscale||Consideration: the working relationships among faculty and the dean or chairperson (Borrevik, 1972)||0.93|
|Intimacy Subscale||Intimacy: faculty’s enjoyment of friendly social relationships with each other (Borrevik, 1972)||0.83|
|Disengagement Subscale||Disengagement: fractionalization among the faculty (Borrevik, 1972)||0.69|
|Production Emphasis Subscale||Production emphasis: behavior that places the college’s welfare above that of the individual faculty members (Borrevik, 1972)||0.68|
|Nurse Faculty Work Role (Gormley, 2005)||Nurse faculty work role: distribution of faculty work among teaching, research, and service (Middaugh, 2002)||0.88|
|Turnover Intention||Turnover intention: faculty’s plan to leave his or her current job within the next year. Turnover intention was assessed by using a researcher-developed single-item question, “Have you seriously considered leaving your current job in the next year?”||0.89|
Hosmer and Lemeshow Test for Goodness of Fit
Logistical Model Classification of Nurse Faculty Intention to Leave Job (N = 313)
|Observed Intention to Leave||Predicted Intention to Leave||Percentage Correcta|
Logistic Model when Nonsignificant Independent Variables Are Removed (N = 313)
|Step 7||Model Log Likelihood||Change in-2 Log Likelihood||df||Significance of Change|
|Organizational climate intimacy||−160.61||3.18||1||0.07|
|Organizational climate disengagement||−165.08||12.11||1||0.00|