Filling the nurse faculty gap

This story was published in the Winter 2021 issue of The Washington Nurse magazine.

WCN workshop aims to support better representation among future nurse educators and address nurse faculty shortages #

To graduate the number of nurses needed to meet the demand, Washington state needs more nurse faculty. In 2016, the Washington Center for Nursing (WCN) began efforts to examine whether there was a nurse faculty shortage. In the 2017 Survey of Nursing Educa­tors in Washington State conducted by WCN, 70% of Washington’s nursing schools reported program faculty vacan­cies. The survey also found that 38% of nurse faculty at commu­nity and technical colleges and 40% of faculty at four-year colleges and univer­si­ties planned to retire by 2027. Addition­ally, nurse educa­tors were less diverse than practicing nurses, nursing students and the general popula­tion. To increase interest in nursing educa­tion as a career, partic­u­larly among under­rep­re­sented students and practicing nurses, the So You Want to be a Professor” workshop was born.

Wa nurse filling gap lee

Antwinett Lee, EdD, MSN-CNS, RN, (left) Interim Dean of Undergraduate Nursing and Assistant Professor of Nursing at the Seattle Pacific University of Health Sciences, shares information with a nursing student.

The concept for the workshop came from the work of the WCN Diver­sity Advisory Committee. In response to reports about the growing shortage of nursing faculty, committee member Dr. Butch de Castro, professor and Associate Dean for Diver­sity, Equity and Inclu­sion at the Univer­sity of Washington, raised the question to others on the committee about how they found their way into and estab­lished themselves in academe. We each had different paths, but a major, common theme was that we recalled how much mystery and how many unknowns there were about the day-to-day life of being a professor,” Dr. de Castro said. I knew there were a few books and guides that described the ins and outs, as well as tips to succeeding in an academic career. So, why not pull the curtain back through a workshop, especially one that featured the experi­ences of faculty of color?”

In 2019, WCN piloted its first three-day So You Want to be a Professor” workshop. In the workshop, experi­enced nursing faculty who repre­sented diverse identi­ties or had experi­ence in nursing workforce diver­sity and health equity aimed to inform partic­i­pants of the role and respon­si­bil­i­ties of a nursing educator. Content included the required degrees, quali­fi­ca­tions and prepa­ra­tion for educa­tors — along with basics on how to apply for jobs in college and univer­sity settings, attain tenure and navigate a career in the academic world. Space was also made to discuss issues related to succeeding as a faculty of color in higher educa­tion which is steeped with tradi­tion and hierarchy that can disad­van­tage those from under­rep­re­sented racial/​ethnic identi­ties and make the academic career experi­ence challenging.

To expose partic­i­pants to a variety of higher-educa­tion settings, each session of the three-day workshop took place at a different type of school: a commu­nity and technical college (Green River College), a public research univer­sity (Univer­sity of Washington, Seattle) and a four-year private, religious univer­sity (Seattle Pacific Univer­sity). At the end of the workshop, partic­i­pants completed an evalu­a­tion, and feedback was very positive. Both faculty and students urged WCN to repeat the workshop.

In 2020, with grant support from Premera Founda­tion, WCN offered the workshop again. Due to COVID-19 restric­tions, the workshop was adapted to a Zoom video confer­ence and moved from a three-day in-person workshop to a four-hour session. Beyond intro­ducing practicing nurses and nursing students to a career in nursing educa­tion, the 2020 program also aimed to reach nurses working in rural environ­ments and nurses special­izing in mental and psychi­atric health. The workshop took place on Sept. 1 and was filled to capacity.

The workshop facil­i­ta­tors included the Univer­sity of Washington’s Butch de Castro, PhD, MSN/MPH, RN, FAAN; Green River College’s KaraLynn LaValley, PhD, MN, RN; and Seattle Pacific University’s Antwinett O. Lee, EdD, MSN-CNS, RN. The facil­i­ta­tors provided an overview of teaching, research and service in a variety of academic settings. Atten­dees also obtained four contin­uing educa­tion credits for partic­i­pating in the workshop.

WCN worked with multi­cul­tural nurses’ organi­za­tions, nursing schools in Washington state and the Associ­a­tion for Advanced Practice Psychi­atric Nurses to generate interest in the workshop. To ensure student engage­ment, facil­i­ta­tors limited the workshop to just 36 partic­i­pants of the more than 150 nurses who applied to attend. WCN will be offering the remaining appli­cants spots in future workshops.

Many appli­cants held graduate degrees, which positions them well to qualify for nurse educator roles. Addition­ally, the Premera Foundation’s grant empha­sized partic­i­pa­tion by practicing nurses, nurses in rural areas, and nurses who special­ized in mental and psychi­atric health. Among the appli­cant pool for the workshop:

    • 64% were practicing nurses with up to 40 years of experience.
    • 20% lived or worked in rural areas.
    • 11% special­ized in mental and psychi­atric health.
    • The appli­cant pool was also diverse, repre­senting multiple ethnicities.

    The diver­sity of the partic­i­pants also exceeded that of those typically found in nursing educa­tion roles and, in most cases, was closer to Washington state demographics. Addition­ally, Washington nurses overall are about 12% male, and workshop partic­i­pants were 16% male.

    Looking at the changing demographics of our state, the next gener­a­tion of the nurses is expected to be far more diverse than it is today. As a result, we will need diverse faculty already in place to be able to success­fully train and educate this up-and-coming workforce.

    WSU College of Nursing profes­sors Louise Kaplan, PhD, ARNP, FNP-BC, FAANP, FAAN and Deborah Eti, PhD, ARNP, FNP‑C, PMHNP-BC, MSN-Ed, CNE, CEN will be evalu­ating the workshop. They conducted both pre- and post-workshop surveys and will conduct ongoing surveys with workshop partic­i­pants over two years to deter­mine how many pursue and secure positions as nurse faculty.

    Washington state needs more nurse faculty, and diver­sity among nurse educa­tors is lacking. The So You Want to be a Professor” workshops aim to support better repre­sen­ta­tion among future nurse educa­tors with the poten­tial of improving health care delivery in Washington state. If the program succeeds in its goal, the possi­bility to graduate larger popula­tions of diverse nursing students also increases. Gradu­ating a nursing workforce that better reflects the demographics of Washington’s popula­tion means more cultur­ally respon­sive care for commu­ni­ties across the state.

    WCN Diversity Advisory Committee #

    The WCN Diver­sity Advisory Committee is a committee formed of leaders from state ethnic nursing associ­a­tions, including:

    • Mary Mahoney Profes­sional Nurses Association
    • Western Washington chapter of the National Hispanic Nurses Association
    • Filipino and Profes­sional Health Care Association 
      of Washington
    • Pacific North­west Chinese Nurses Association
    • Samoan Nurses Association
    • Nurse scholars experi­enced in the area of equity and diver­sity also contribute to the committee.