Staffing shortages in healthcare services present a public health crisis, with almost a third of surveyed nurses stating they wish to leave the profession. Similarly, nursing faculty are experiencing widespread staffing shortages which prevent them from reaching their goals. Dissatisfied faculty can cause long-term harmful consequences for the organization’s productivity, not to mention institutions’ capacity to train and develop new nurses. Three University of Arkansas faculty, Profs. Thomas Kippenbrock, Christopher Rosen, and Jan Emory, study and evaluate this phenomena in “Job Satisfaction Among Nursing Faculty in Canada and the United States.”
The United States vacancy rate for full-time faculty nursing schools is 8%, representing the highest vacancy rate in the past decade. Moreso, the average number of additional faculty desired ranges from approximately two to three per institution. The researchers take a look at two criteria that influence an organization’s productivity and effectiveness: job satisfaction and intent to stay.
The Impact of Job Satisfaction
While job satisfaction does not drive motivation, it can contribute to the overall efficiency and effectiveness of business organizations. Previous research has found that when employees are satisfied, there is a higher organizational commitment and a positive influence on business performance. These factors also correlate with an employee’s intent to stay. Understanding what keeps faculty satisfied and willing to stay is a step towards meeting the challenge of a diversified academic nursing workforce.
The researchers used survey data collected from faculty at over 250 colleges and universities in the U.S. and Canada about their job satisfaction levels and how long they plan to stay at their current institution. The survey asked respondents to rate their satisfaction or dissatisfaction for the department they work for, to rate the institution as a place to work, and to report how long they planned to stay at their current institution.
What Works and What Doesn’t
The survey results suggest that administration should focus on certain factors, such as tenure status, academic rank, race, and gender in order to recruit and retain qualified individuals at their firm.
Gender plays an important role for recruiters since job satisfaction is experienced differently between male and female employees. Previous studies show that women’s job satisfaction is influenced by the type of work they do and their coworkers; whereas the job satisfaction of male employees is more influenced by pay and promotions.
Based on their analyses, the researchers urge academic administrators to reduce this gender gap. Strategies to improve women’s academic rankings can hopefully contribute to the retention of nursing faculty members in higher education. The researchers found six work factors that were positively related to job satisfaction and intent to stay: personal and family policies, collaboration, tenure clarity, institutional leadership, shared governance, and engagement. There was an especially high correlation between personal and family policies and institutional leadership. This relationship may even be more important now following the pandemic and the increased family responsibilities and changes in management practices it brought about. Overall, the relationship between academic rankings and tenure status of nursing faculty provides important insights for academic administrators and recruiters.
Academic ranking and tenure status seem to go hand-in-hand: the “honeymoon period” that occurs after initial entry into an organization can fade as time passes. On the one hand, those with tenure showed lower levels of job satisfaction and intentions to stay with their current organization, possibly due to growing feelings of powerlessness and the unresponsive nature of the institution to individual needs.
On the other hand, non-tenure track instructors and lecturers reported the highest average scores for job satisfaction. The relationship with intent to stay was similar regardless of tenure status, but the scores for assistant professors were higher than the other groups. Faculty members who accept assistant professor positions are relatively new to the organization and have an intent to complete a career at the organization.
So, how can administrators and recruiters use this research to improve job satisfaction and retention? To do so, administrators should focus on positive affect, building a diverse workforce, and ensuring that their current workforce is more conscious of diversity and thus better able to serve a diverse student population.
Positive affect is characterized by high levels of enthusiasm, inspiration, alertness, and pride, is a causal factor of job performance and satisfaction in faculty. The researchers, using a recent study conducted in 2020, urge nursing scholars to further consider the role of emotions in nursing faculty and schools.
Another strategy to enhance the diversity of the nursing workforce is to promote the recruitment and retention of a diverse nursing faculty workforce. Several related studies have found that Hispanic and Black or African American nursing faculty reported statistically significant lower levels of job satisfaction and intent to stay compared to their white coworkers.
Healthcare professionals are responsible for tending to a society that is diverse in many respects and future practitioners should be prepared to meet the needs of the diverse patient population. There is evidence that patients with minority ethnic backgrounds and lower socioeconomic status receive lower quality of care than others. Physicians may lack awareness about diversity-related topics and are thus not as well-prepared to serve a diverse student population as they could be. Incorporating diversity education and having a healthcare workforce that resembles the population might help to close the gender, race, and ethnicity-related gaps in work satisfaction and intent to stay.
By addressing areas of dissatisfaction, employers can work towards building a positive work environment and fostering professional development. The well-being of the faculty will protect institutions from employee burnout with satisfied faculty that are more engaged, motivated, and committed to their roles. Administrators should also focus on creating collaborative work environments for nursing faculty, shared governance possibilities, and a culture of involvement, in addition to personal and family policies in order to lead a balanced life.
Having a diverse, well-prepared nursing workforce – inside and outside of the academy – starts with faculty. Institutions will have an increasingly hard time “meeting the challenge of a diversified academic workforce” if they do not closely examine the findings put forth by Professors Kippenbrock, Rosen, and Emory.