Executive Summary Page - Becoming a Health Profession Educator in a University: the experiences of recently-appointed lecturers in Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Professions
This study was designed to investigate the experiences of new lecturers in higher education in the UK in the professional field of nursing, midwifery and allied health professions (occupational therapists, physiotherapists, diagnostic radiographers and therapeutic radiographers). The small body of existing research suggested that the transition for these practitioners as they become lecturers in higher education is challenging and that current forms of support during induction are not always effective. This study asks how new health care professional lecturers experience their transition from clinical to academic roles. It focuses on the first five years of experience after appointment to higher education and aims to inform strategies for academic induction.
The aim of the study was to gather data from academic staff in the full range of institutional workplace contexts with a variety of institutional priorities and expectations. An on‐line survey was designed to capture some demographic data and especially qualitative data asking lecturers in nursing, midwifery, physiotherapy, occupational therapy and radiography about their experiences. Preliminary contact was made with all relevant universities to seek permission to distribute the survey and to establish the potential sample size in terms of the number of relevant staff. The survey link was then sent via named contacts in each participating university to all nurse, midwifery and allied health professional staff. The use of the online survey tool ensured anonymity of the respondents, and the method of distribution allowed for a broad estimate of response rate. A total of 504 academic staff responded to the survey. 146 of these were in their first five years of working in higher education and it is these responses that form the data for tis report. The responses of the more experienced lecturer respondents will be considered in a further analysis. The responses of each professional group were coded and subject to thematic analysis.
A number of key themes emerged from the analysis. In the UK new university lecturers in nursing, midwifery and allied health professions are generally appointed after establishing themselves as expert clinicians with associated practices and identities. They find the mid career transition to their higher education roles challenging. They generally enjoy the challenge, feel well supported and are highly motivated by nurturing new practitioners. They experience considerable tensions within their transition related both to managing their new role and the different workplace activities and priorities within it. Only a small minority of the new lecturers hold a doctorate on their appointment to higher education, they mainly see gaining a doctorate and becoming research active as an important ambition but the pressures of their working lives make this difficult to prioritise.
Whilst many of the experiences of the sample group mirror those in other professional fields, some differences specific to this group of academic staff, and between the different professional fields included in the study, do exist. From a workplace learning perspective in which practice shapes their multiple identities (Wenger, 1998), the newly appointed higher education lecturers in nursing, midwifery and allied health professions respond to their experiences by holding on strongly to their identity and credibility s a clinical practitioner rather than more quickly embracing new identities as a scholar and researcher.
In light of the study findings, recommendations to enhance the induction of newly appointed lecturers in nursing, midwifery and allied health professions are as follows:
Newly appointed lecturers in nursing, midwifery and allied health professions should be encouraged to build on their primary motivation, to contribute to the development of new clinical practitioners, in order to see this role as also including a contribution to the development of new professional knowing through application f scholarship and research.
- In reviewing the formal and informal provision of support for new lecturers, departments should consider what models for building an academic identity are available and how reward and recognition structures and cultures influence the selection of such role models by new lecturers.
- Departments need to review their formal arrangements for the induction of newly appointed lecturers in nursing, midwifery and allied health professions in order to support proactive professional learning and identity work towards becoming an academic. This means that whilst development of teaching is important there is also a need to support new lecturers in their professional learning with respect to working in higher education organisations, their changed role within healthcare work settings and especially in their scholarship and research activity.
- Departmental leaders and relevant academic development staff need to nurture informal workplace learning opportunities, such as collaborative teaching and assessment, research networks and informal mentoring, in order to move towards the development of more expansive workplace learning environments.
- Departments and higher education institutions need to set realistic expectations for the workload of lecturers and for scholarship and research within this. They need to provide effective workplace support for time and workload management so that excessive stress is avoided during he induction period which new lecturers generally find enjoyable but challenging.
If you would like to comment or speak about the project please contact: Pete Boyd, Principal Lecturer, School of Educational Partnership and Enterprise
University of Cumbria
Fusehill Street, Carlisle