Journal of Nursing Education

Educational Innovations 

Promoting Faculty Scholarship: A Clinical Faculty Scholars Program

Ann Minnick, PhD, RN, FAAN; Ruth Kleinpell, PhD, RN, FAAN; Linda D. Norman, DSN, RN, FAAN

Abstract

Background:

The importance of supporting and promoting faculty scholarship in nursing is acknowledged, but the reality of scholarship for faculty engaged in clinical teaching can be challenging.

Method:

The article describes the development and initial results of the scholarly practice program. Mentorship, time, and limited funding are essentials for the program.

Results:

After submitting detailed proposals, 15 faculty were chosen to be project leaders in the first 2 years of the program, resulting in 15 presentations, three posters, 19 publications, and a webinar, to date. External continuing funding has been secured by three projects. Additional dissemination efforts are awaiting peer review.

Conclusion:

The program has successfully increased the level of scholarship among clinical teaching faculty and contributed to the faculty's professional satisfaction. Faculty have increased experience and ability to conduct clinical quality improvement. Experience supports targeted, substantial support for projects, rather than a general average faculty allocation strategy to promote scholarship. [J Nurs Educ. 2018;57(2):121–125.]

Abstract

Background:

The importance of supporting and promoting faculty scholarship in nursing is acknowledged, but the reality of scholarship for faculty engaged in clinical teaching can be challenging.

Method:

The article describes the development and initial results of the scholarly practice program. Mentorship, time, and limited funding are essentials for the program.

Results:

After submitting detailed proposals, 15 faculty were chosen to be project leaders in the first 2 years of the program, resulting in 15 presentations, three posters, 19 publications, and a webinar, to date. External continuing funding has been secured by three projects. Additional dissemination efforts are awaiting peer review.

Conclusion:

The program has successfully increased the level of scholarship among clinical teaching faculty and contributed to the faculty's professional satisfaction. Faculty have increased experience and ability to conduct clinical quality improvement. Experience supports targeted, substantial support for projects, rather than a general average faculty allocation strategy to promote scholarship. [J Nurs Educ. 2018;57(2):121–125.]

Supporting and promoting faculty scholarship is an important component of a professional academic discipline. In the nursing discipline, academic scholarship plays an important role in advancing knowledge in the field (American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 2017). Recent changes in nursing education including the emergence of clinically focused doctoral degrees and an emphasis on evidence-based practice have resulted in a transformation of nursing scholarship (Brown & Crabtree, 2013; Honig, Smolowitz, & Larson, 2013). This has placed increased emphasis on the importance of advancing faculty scholarship. The National League for Nursing highlights that evidence-based nursing education and clinical practice are essential, making building a robust community of nursing scholars an imperative (National League for Nursing Board of Governors, 2012). The development of scholarly trajectories has also been outlined as a strategy for promoting faculty satisfaction and retention (Banks, 2012), as well as one that creates a community of scholars to advance a profession (Cash & Tate, 2008).

Based on the definition of scholarship advanced by Boyer in the 1990s, faculty scholarship has included the scholarship of discovery integration, teaching, and application (Boyer, 1990). Although most professional disciplines acknowledge the importance of faculty scholarship, the role of scholarship in nursing has been outlined specifically as advancing the teaching, research, and practice of nursing through rigorous inquiry that is significant to the profession, is creative, can be documented, and can be peer reviewed through various methods (American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 2017). The scholarship of nursing has been identified as an individual responsibility, as well as one that involves a collective undertaking to advance the profession (Andrew & Wilkie, 2007). This is of special importance given the nature of the discipline and the sheer number of faculty engaged in clinical practice.

A special American Association of Colleges of Nursing task-force described several examples of practice scholarship products indicators. These include peer reviewed publications, case studies, technical or other practice applications; presentations related to practice; grant awards in support of practice; state, regional, national, or international recognition; and professional certifications, degrees, and other specialty credentials. Other examples of indicators are reports of clinical demonstration projects; contributions to the development of scientific standards, health-related guidelines, or policies; consultation and evaluation of nursing programs; regional, national, and international awards; and serving as an expert in leadership positions (American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 2017).

Although acknowledgement is important, the reality of promoting faculty scholarship, especially for faculty engaged in clinical teaching and practice, can be challenging; faculty often face barriers to scholarship. These include lack of time, insufficient skills, and access to mentoring (Reader, Fornari, Simon, & Townsend, 2015). Among these skills are proposal writing, project management, and analysis. In addition, building a schedule that enables faculty to pursue scholarship activities can be challenging because faculty must balance many competing priorities (Rao & Rich, 2012). Further, a school of nursing's budget, especially in terms of faculty time, must be considered by planners. This article describes an innovative scholarship program developed specifically for nontenure-track clinical teaching faculty. Within this program, faculty propose and execute scholarship activities within a framework that provides support and dedicated time to pursue such activities.

Purpose

Vanderbilt University (VU) is a private, not-for profit institution designated as a Carnegie class “doctoral university highest research activity” located in Nashville, Tennessee, an urban area in the southeast. Vanderbilt University School of Nursing (VUSN) offers study for the following degrees: Masters in Nursing (multiple entry options, for 14 specialties), Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), and PhD. In addition, it offers post-masters certificates and operates post-doctoral programs. The average approximate enrollment in this year-round academic enterprise is 850. There are approximately 140 faculty who are full-time calendar year appointments and 40 part-time faculty. Of these, 16 are tenured or on the tenure track. Almost 100% of faculty hold a doctoral degree; of these, approximately 80% hold the DNP. The preponderance of DNP holders makes VUSN typical of many university-level schools of nursing and highlights the challenge of meeting the needs of these faculty.

The Scholarly Practice Investment Program at VUSN was created in 2014 to support nontenure-track VUSN faculty members to build or sustain scholarship in areas of clinical excellence consistent with the strategic plan ( https://nursing.vanderbilt.edu/research/program-guidelines.php). The specific program aims are to:

  • Develop faculty VUSN in areas of sustained scholarship that result in recognition of as a center of clinical nursing excellence at national and international levels.
  • Allow VUSN faculty an avenue to pursue scholarly practice that benefits themselves professionally while furthering the achievement of the VU and VUSN strategic plans.
  • Develop scholarly practice role models for other faculty, student, and other health care providers.
  • Conduct meaningful, effective, and sustained clinical nursing projects that improve health.

VUSN views the Scholarly Practice Investment Program (SPIP) as a major asset in building scholarly clinical excellence. The faculty member may request support for (a) a series of clinically focused dissemination (e.g., papers, webinars) that will improve care by increasing provider and patient knowledge and skill, (b) a project that develops innovation sustained clinical services, or (c) some combination of these approaches. Support may include not only support up to 20% of faculty effort, but also project and dissemination costs.

Program Processes and Procedures Program Administration

VUSN does not have a departmental structure but is organized by academic level and specialty programs. The Senior Associate Dean for Research, who is responsible for the SPIP, reports to the Dean. The Senior Associate Deans for Academics, Clinical Practice, and Informatics also report to the Dean. All the clinical nontenure-track faculty report to one of these Deans, thus the requirement that the faculty member seek the approval of their reporting Dean prior to proposing a project was instituted.

During the development of the program, a program facilitator was retained by the Senior Associate Dean–Research to help in operationalizing the effort. The success of the program has resulted in the creation of an Assistant Dean for Clinical Scholarship position, now held by the original program facilitator who was in a visiting faculty role. We refer to this person by her new title throughout this report. Depending on the scope and volume of the projects, other experienced faculty may be designated to assist by giving advice and support. These are referred to in this report as “mentors.” This mentorship is project specific and not to be confused with promotional or career mentorship.

All the projects' efforts are supported by services offered by the Center for Research Development and Scholarship (CRDS) which is a responsibility of the Senior Associate Dean–Research. CRDS provides support services such as advice about dissemination, the use of various data capture tools, and statistical analyses.

Applicant Eligibility

The SPIP is open to any nontenure-track VUSN faculty member whose position is funded by VUSN. The applications are accepted based on resource availability and congruence with the VUSN strategic plan. The applicant must be approved by the Senior Associate Dean responsible for the clinical faculty member because of the potential investment of time. An individual may submit more than one application, but barring any unusual circumstance only one project per faculty member is supported at any given time.

Selection Criteria and Process

Six criteria govern this selection: (a) fit with VUSN and VU strategic plans, (b) clarity and feasibility of planned activities within a no more than 2-year time frame, (c) the individual's or team's experience with the clinical area and with scholarly activities, (d) identification of an available mentor, (e) demonstration of ability or potential to work with and develop others, and (f) potential of sustained contributions. The applicant (or if a team effort, the project leader) must make a commitment to remain at VUSN for at least 1 calendar year upon project completion.

The Dean and the Senior Associate Deans review the applications on an ongoing basis. A majority vote is required for inclusion in the program.

The Application and Support During Application Development

After discussing the general idea with the applicable Senior Associate Dean and receiving approval to progress, the faculty member contacts the assistant Dean for Clinical Scholarship supported by CRDS.

The application must include (a) statements of project aims, (b) statement of how aims meet the SPIP goals, (c) a description of all planned activities that includes a time table that specifies when deliverables will be available, (d) a budget that specifies all salary and nonsalary expenses, (e) the curricula vitae (CVs) of all project personnel with a narrative statement of the lead faculty member's relevant experiences, (f) letters of support from potential mentor(s) and key personnel, (g) a statement of commitments to remain at VUSN at least 1 calendar year after the project's completion, and (h) a letter of support from the relevant VUSN Senior Associate Dean.

Allowable Resource Requests

The applicant may budget for labor, including her or his own. This is encouraged to ensure the project is executed without unduly creating scheduling and stress for the faculty member. The support for the lead faculty member usually is limited to 20% time for no more than a 2-year period given the need to stay within the strategic plan goals and the demands of the project. Requests for support of project assistants' time, statistical consultations, and other labor costs are also allowable. The applicant may also request equipment, participant incentive, and travel and dissemination support. The Assistant Dean for Clinical Scholarship works with the applicant to identify how some of these resources may be available through the many central resources provided to faculty by VU at no cost.

Support During Project Implementation

Mentorship and consultation are provided by the dedicated faculty mentors, including review of the proposal prior to formal submission; review of IRB submissions; ongoing face-to-face and telephone meetings to provide input during project implementation; assistance with data management and analysis; review of abstract submissions, poster, and manuscript drafts; and review of subsequent funding applications for project extension work. Support from a data analyst and statistician are also available to participants, based on the clinical scholarship project needs.

Monitoring Post-Award

The awardee submits a 6-month and 1-year progress report addressing the extent to which the stated aims and activities have been achieved, special accomplishments, or difficulties encountered to the director of CRDS/Senior Associate Dean–Research. Products, if any, are attached to these reports. CRDS staff assist in making changes to the year 2 budget if needed. At the end of the year 2, the same process is followed.

The Dean and Senior Associate Deans review the reports and indicate approval or disapproval of continued support. Project reports are included in the annual faculty evaluation documents.

Results

Six faculty were provided resources to be leaders of projects the first year of the program (2014–2015) and nine during the second year (2015–2016), for a total of 15 initiatives as of August 2016. Overall, more than 25 faculty members participated in at least one project. Four project proposals were denied because of lack of congruence with the program's aims. The project content and aims varied widely: 10 projects were clinically based, two were aimed an academic educational issues, two concerned aspects relate to public policy, and one was an international service project (Table 1). Not every project required 2 years to complete and some required less than 0.2 full-time equivalent (FTE) work effort support.

Examples of Scholarly Project Topics

Table 1:

Examples of Scholarly Project Topics

The total FTE supported by VUSN of the 15 projects was 3.6 (1.8 per year on average). Total technical administration support, noninclusive of that provided by CRDS staff or entities such as the institutional review board were 2.0 FTE over the 2-year period. Approximately $78,000 was spent on the honoree, travel, equipment, and special fees. The services provided are listed in Table 2. The resources used by all projects were development, mentorship, and report preparation. Literature review (n = 10) and abstract–presentation support (n = 8) were used by most of the projects.

Services Provided to Scholarly Projects

Table 2:

Services Provided to Scholarly Projects

To date, the 15 projects have produced 15 presentations at regional, national, and international conferences, three posters, 19 publications, and a webinar (Table 3). Ten of the projects are waiting for decisions about their additional submissions. Two faculty members have received recognition at the state level: A nursing education award from the Tennessee Nurses Association, and a March of Dimes nurse of the year award from the Middle Tennessee Nurses Association. Three projects applied for external funding during their execution and received a total of $22,000—most from small foundations. Additionally, one faculty member received funding from the state department of health to support a project extension. Efforts to seek continuation funding for other projects are ongoing.

Vanderbilt University School of Nursing Scholarly Practice Investment Program Products

Table 3:

Vanderbilt University School of Nursing Scholarly Practice Investment Program Products

Discussion and Recommendations

The SPIP program has been successful in increasing the level of scholarship among the nontenure-track clinical teaching faculty. The program resulted in numerous applications with not only enthusiasm on the part of the participating faculty but others as well. Faculty receiving release time from the SPIP reported that protected time, mentoring, data and statistical support, and involvement of the Assistant Dean increased their confidence and ability to pursue clinical research and scholarship initiatives. Others have commented on the benefit of having dedicated faculty mentoring to assist with scholarship development. The outcomes in terms of products met or exceeded expectations based on those projected in the original proposals. It is not possible to determine whether these faculty would have produced these outcomes without support. Participants' informal feedback was that they could not have produced as much, if any at all.

Although almost every project was led by a doctoral-prepared (most as DNP) faculty member, extensive mentoring, statistical, and other support services were needed. Our recommendation is that for a program of this size (n = 15 projects) dedicated statistical help of at least 0.5 FTE (per year) be provided. The Assistant Dean was part-time (0.3 FTE per year) and handled other work beyond the program. A less experienced person would probably require more time.

Administrators must recognize that resources that work well for research faculty may not be as effective for clinical teaching faculty engaged in scholarly projects. Clinical teaching faculty require more and continuing assistance if the resources are to be to of use to program participants. For example, the rate at which assistance was requested with the literature review, abstract preparation, and publication was much higher than what is requested by research faculty (who almost never request these services). In addition, the variation in service use indicates that not every project needs every service, but that a range of services needs to be offered.

Assistance in any attempt to seek external funding is especially important. Recognition of these needs will prevent misguided but well-meaning efforts to prepare external submissions. It is also important to recognize that many, if not almost all, of the projects will not lead to large external funding mechanisms. We estimate based on our first 2 years of experience that less than 20% will. External funding should not, realistically, be the primary motivation for a mechanism such as this; rather, the primary goal is to provide dedicated workload effort and project support that enables faculty to produce scholarly products.

Emphasizing the link between each project and the SPIP strategic vison has been important and will continue to be as the program moves forward. Using the resources to fund 15 projects rather than splitting them into small, almost unnoticeable contributions to each of more than 140 faculty has resulted in administrative and faculty accountability as well. These two actions have resulted in achievement of strategic plan goals.

Conclusion

Overall, the SPIP program has resulted in improvements in clinical and education areas, raised the school's profile locally and nationally, and contributed to faculty's professional satisfaction. In addition, the scholarly productivity that has resulted from the program has advanced the skill set of faculty to accomplish clinical quality improvements and to apply research. As the promotion of faculty scholarship continues to be a priority, sharing innovative programs structures and successful implementation strategies can help to advance nursing's place within a community of scholars.

References

  • American Association of Colleges of Nursing. (2017). Defining scholarship for academic nursing. Draft Position Paper, May23, 2017.
  • Andrew, N. & Wilkie, G. (2007). Integrated scholarship in nursing: An individual responsibility or collective undertaking. Nurse Education Today, 27(1), 1–4. doi:10.1016/j.nedt.2006.09.007 [CrossRef]
  • Banks, J. (2012). Development of scholarly trajectories that reflect core values and priorities: A strategy for promoting faculty retention. Journal of Professional Nursing, 28, 351–359. doi:10.1016/j.profnurs.2012.04.002 [CrossRef]
  • Boyer, E.L. (1990). Scholarship reconsidered: Priorities of the professoriate. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
  • Brown, M.A. & Crabtree, K. (2013). The development of practice scholarship in DNP programs: A paradigm shift. Journal of Professional Nursing, 29, 330–337. doi:10.1016/j.profnurs.2013.08.003 [CrossRef]
  • Cash, P.A. & Tate, B. (2008). Creating a community of scholars: Using a community development approach to foster scholarship with nursing faculty. International Journal of Nursing Education Scholarship, 5. doi:10.2202/1548-923X.1454 [CrossRef]
  • Honig, J., Smolowitz, J. & Larson, E. (2013). Building a framework for nursing scholarship: Guidelines for appointment and promotion. Journal of Professional Nursing, 29, 359–369. doi:10.1016/j.profnurs.2012.10.001 [CrossRef]
  • National League for Nursing Board of Governors. (2012). NLN vision: Transforming research in nursing education. Retrieved from http://www.nln.org/docs/default-source/about/nln-vision-series-%28position-statements%29/nlnvision_5.pdf?sfvrsn=4
  • Rao, A. & Rich, V.L. (2012). Service and scholarship: An evolutionary examination of nursing administration. Nursing Administration Quarterly, 36, 107–114. doi:10.1097/NAQ.0b013e31824a5834 [CrossRef]
  • Reader, S., Fornari, A., Simon, S. & Townsend, J. (2015). Promoting faculty scholarship—An evaluation of a program for busy clinician–educators. Canadian Medical Education Journal, 6(1), e43–e60.

Examples of Scholarly Project Topics

Project Topic
Promotion of effective communication with vulnerable women
Development of an interprofessional teaching simulation
Midwifery professional practice evaluation development
Stress reduction and mindfulness applications in graduate nursing programs
Clinical partnership program to address heart failure transitional care
Historical study of U.S. nurse-managed health centers
Pain management during intrauterine device insertion
Addressing sleep disorders of patients with restless leg syndrome
Advancing the roles of emergency nurse practitioners
Role and cultural healing practices of Nandi traditional healers in Western Kenya
Application of primary care guidelines in an HIV clinical setting
Interprofessional obstetrics simulation with nursing and divinity students
School-based asthma education program to prevent asthma exacerbations
Perinatal/neonatal loss support systems and evidence-based interventions
Reducing rehospitalization of Medicare recipients

Services Provided to Scholarly Projects

Service TypeaNo. of Projects Receiving Assistance
Development (CRDS)15
Literature Review (CRDS)10
Institutional review board application consultation (CRDS)5
Publication support (CRDS)7
Abstract and presentation support (CRDS)8
Statistical support
  CRDS (including temporary consultant)5
  VU Department of Biostatistics4
REDCapb consultation (CRDS)4
Mentorship (CRDS and VUSN faculty)15
Report preparations (CRDS)15

Vanderbilt University School of Nursing Scholarly Practice Investment Program Products

Product TypeIn Progress (≤1 Year)Completed (2 Years)Total to Date
Number of projects10515
Total presentationsa7815
Total postersa213
Total publicationsb81119
Total webinars11
Number of projects seeking continued funding from other sourcesNA11
Total funding obtained$31,153 (5 projects)$2,600 (1 project)$33,753
Authors

Dr. Minnick is Julia Eleanor Chenault Professor of Nursing, Dr. Kleinpell is Assistant Dean for Clinical Scholarship, and Professor of Nursing, and Dr. Norman is Valere Potter Menefee Professor of Nursing, and Dean, School of Nursing, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee.

The authors have disclosed no potential conflicts of interest, financial or otherwise.

Address correspondence to Ann F. Minnick, PhD, RN, FAAN, Julia Eleanor Chenault Professor of Nursing, Vanderbilt University, Godchaux Hall, Room 424, 21st Avenue South, Nashville, TN 37240; e-mail: Ann.Minnick@vanderbilt.edu.

Received: June 02, 2017
Accepted: October 02, 2017

10.3928/01484834-20180123-11

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