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Nursing Schools Increasingly Turn to Part-Time Faculty June 1, 2011

Posted by The Raise Project in Uncategorized.

By Katherine Mangan

Squeezed by growing enrollments, shrinking budgets, and a shortage of full-time faculty members, the nation’s nursing schools are relying more heavily than ever on part-time instructors, according to a report that will be presented to a national faculty group next week.

Many of the new faculty members are practicing nurses who have little or no teaching experience or job security as instructors, and limited time to meet with students outside of class, the report notes.

And while their clinical expertise is a big plus for the students training alongside them, their limited exposure to academe poses challenges for nursing programs that are struggling to meet growing health-care needs.

The report is based on 581 responses from a survey that was sent to deans and directors of all of the nursing programs nationwide.

“The increase in the use of part-time faculty has happened faster than nursing schools can respond” by stepping up teaching support, says the author, Jacqueline R. Meyer, an associate professor of nursing at Allen College who will present her findings at the annual meeting of the American Association of University Professors.

The number of part-time faculty members teaching in baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs jumped 53 percent between 2005 and 2010, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. That compares with a 35-percent increase for full-time faculty members during the same time period. One of the biggest recruiting challenges, nursing educators say, is that academic salaries tend to lag significantly behind what many registered nurses can earn in clinical practice.

In 2010, there were 15,711 part-time faculty members, just shy of the 15,726 full-time faculty members.

“Most part-time faculty members have other full-time, or nearly full-time clinical jobs,” says Ms. Meyer, who serves as coordinator of adjunct faculty members at Allen College. “They’re experts in clinical practice, but not in teaching.” Some find that critiquing students’ performance is difficult, and given that the nurses have no assurance of being rehired the next semester, some are reluctant to be too critical.

Practicing nurses who want to give back to the profession are a crucial resource for nursing schools, which had to turn away more than 67,000 qualified student applicants for the 2009-10 academic year, according to the nursing colleges’ association.

“With heavy demand for nurse educators expected to persist and insufficient numbers of full-time faculty to meet the need, the use of substantial numbers of part-time nursing faculty seems likely to remain an important reality into the future,” the report notes.

Health educators have warned that the United States faces a growing nursing shortage as baby boomers age and the need for health care grows. But largely because of a shortage of faculty members, nursing schools have struggled to expand enrollments—a problem the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching highlighted in a report released last year.




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