Retaining the Wisdom: Deans’ Reflections on Extending the Academic Working Life of Aging Nurse Faculty




Falk, Nancy L.

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Aging nurse faculty members are vital human resources who serve as educators, researchers, and leaders within baccalaureate nursing programs nationwide. On average, aging nurse faculty members are over 50 years of age and face key retirement decisions over the next decade. Yet, there is little evidence that helps to inform education, practice, policy, and research about issues surrounding continued employment of aging nurse faculty. The purpose of this study was to begin to build substantive theory about deans' perceptions of extending the academic working life of aging nurse faculty members. In person and phone interviews were conducted with nine deans from baccalaureate nursing programs nationwide in this grounded theory study. The participants were employed at large, small, public, private, rural, and urban institutions in eight different states. They varied in age, race, and length of employment in the dean's role and at their current universities. Interviews were audiotaped and transcribed. Data were analyzed using constant comparative analysis. Four categories emerged from the interview data: valuing aging nurse faculty, enduring environmental challenges, recognizing stakeholder incongruence, and readjusting. Findings show that baccalaureate nursing programs and faculty members face environmental challenges including pressures, tensions, and ongoing change. Deans' reflections revealed that aging nurse faculty members are highly valued, bringing wisdom, experience, and institutional, historical, and cultural awareness to their many roles. In the ever-changing environment of baccalaureate nursing education however, some aging nurse faculty fail to keep knowledge, skills, and teaching modes current. In such situations, stakeholder incongruence arises as a mismatch develops between the needs of the baccalaureate nursing program and the skills and contributions of aging nurse faculty members. Baccalaureate nursing programs, program leaders, and aging nurse faculty members can lessen the incongruence by re-adjusting to address the pressures, tensions, and ongoing change.



Nursing education, Employment of older workers, Faculty, Retention, Aging, Nursing shortage