The Role of First-Line Administrators in Nursing Schools

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Communicating Nursing Research


Specific Objectives. This research identified and described the role characteristics and anticipated career patterns of first-line nurse administrators employed in university-based nursing education programs throughout the nation. First-line administrators in this research are nurses who work in administrative positions just one step above the faculty, and are most frequently entitled department chairpersons; division, program and level directors; or coordinators.

Rationale and Background. The nursing literature reveals that there is a dearth of research on first-line nurse administrators relative to their formal and informal role preparation, role responsibilities, and the competencies, they need. The literature from non-nursing disciplines reveals that most first-line administrators in universities are chosen for their personal characteristics and scholarly qualities, not for their educational preparation in administration or their administrative "know how." This finding is in keeping with the myth that "yesterday's good professor is today's good chairperson." Thus, this research was also aimed at understanding the latter phenomenon within a nursing context.

Methodology. An exploratory research design was used to identify and describe the role characteristics and anticipated career patterns of first-line nurse educational administrators. A stratified random sample was drawn of the 114 accredited nursing schools throughout the nation that offer baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs, and the deans/directors were requested to provide the names of the first -line administrators in their schools. Quantitative and qualitative data were generated from 57 first -11 ne administrators in 24 different states. Telephone interviews were conducted to determine the administrators' responses to eleven questions about their role preparation, responsibilities, accountability, stressors and coping mechanisms and anticipated career patterns. They also provided demographic data and completed a competencies rating instrument. Qualitative data collected via the telephone interviews were analyzed using the content analysis method, while the quantitative data collected from the two instruments were analyzed using descriptive statistics.

Results. The majority of the administrators in the study have limited formal preparation for their role. Most have engaged in a variety of informal means to prepare for their role, such as continuing education courses, mentorship, and" self- study. They perceive a high level of role related stressors, and have developed personal and professional mechanisms to cope with the stressors. A number of the "administrators are reluctant to commit themselves to a career in nursing educational administration, due to the demands associated with an administrative role.Implications. There is a continuing need to educate nurses formally for first-line administrative roles in academe; facilitate mentor relationships for these nurses; and reevaluate their expected achievement in the traditional areas of research and scholarship, teaching, and service when the expectations must be carried out within an administrative appointment.



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