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N.J. Nursing Professor to Help RNs Transition to Faculty

Transitioning from clinical practice to an academic role can be fraught with challenges. Sigma Theta Tau International’s new Nurse Faculty Mentored Leadership Development Program aims to support novice nurse educators as they learn the art of teaching and build successful, rewarding faculty careers.

“So many new faculty come into the role and are quite overwhelmed with it,” says D. Anthony “Tony” Forrester, RN, PhD, ANEF, a professor at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey School of Nursing in Newark. He also is a professor in residence and interdisciplinary health research consultant at Morristown (N.J.) Memorial Hospital and an expert faculty member for the Nurse Faculty Mentored Leadership Development Program.

“Often these are people who have advanced practice credentials, who are highly committed to practice and been successful,” says Forrester, adding that they need good mentorship to learn how to juggle the competing demands. “You recognize the importance of excellent teaching, but the role is more the politics of self-governance and retention, [such as] ‘What outcomes must I produce to become a tenured faculty member?’ ”

Scholar-Mentor Teams

Cynthia Vlasich, RN

The Elsevier Foundation, a publisher of scientific, technical, and medical information products and services, provided Sigma Theta Tau International Foundation for Nursing a $200,000 grant to create a leadership development program designed to help build the next generation of nurse faculty. The Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International’s International Leadership Institute will administer the pilot program. It is modeled after other honor society leadership programs but focuses on improving novice educator retention.

“We have an amazing shortage of nurse faculty,” says Cynthia Vlasich, RN, director of education and leadership for Sigma Theta Tau. “There needed to be some real foundational support for early career nurse faculty.”

Sigma Theta Tau reports research shows new faculty who have worked successfully with a mentor have higher job satisfaction, with increased promotions and mobility than those without mentors. Mentored faculty also become more productive in obtaining competitive grants, leading professional organizations, and publishing in scholarly books and journal articles.

Novice nurses, who hold master’s or doctoral degrees or are enrolled in doctoral programs, can apply between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31 for one of the expected 16 faculty scholar, or mentee positions. Forrester expects most of the scholars will hold faculty positions for less than four years. Sigma Theta Tau encourages members from around the globe to participate.

“We’re taking an international perspective,” Forrester says. The program advisory group includes eight nurses from Canada, Hong Kong, Australia, South Africa, and the U.S.

Scholars must identify a mentor willing to serve as a role model and coach. The mentor must demonstrate leadership characteristics and not work at the same institution as the scholar.

That way, “the mentor can look at the situation from the outside,” Vlasich says. “It also supports the premise that the scholar is responsible for taking action. The mentor is not responsible to intervene.”


The nursing honor society selected seven expert faculty from throughout North America to develop the curriculum and support the teams. In addition to Forrester, faculty selected include Judy Anderson, RN, PhD, CNE, of Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wis.; Carol J. Huston, RN, MSN, DPA, FAAN, of California State University in Chico; Ainslee Nibert, PhD, MSN, BSN of Elsevier in Houston; Elizabeth Peter, RN, PhD, of the University of Toronto in Canada; Frances Vlasses, RN, PhD, NEA-BC, of Loyola University in Chicago; and Carol Winters-Moorhead, RN, PhD, CNE, of East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C.

“We all have specific backgrounds we bring,” Forrester says. “What I’m passionate about is faculty entrepreneurship and scholarly faculty practice. I think that was why I was selected. Others are there because of their expertise in evaluation, curriculum, and instruction. We’re all well-rounded educators.”

Faculty entrepreneurship refers to individuals who develop into successful entities that benefit the school and the nurse’s career.

“Not only are you an expert at teaching your students, but you [also] are out there moving the discipline along in terms of practice and research,” Forrester says. “Faculty should see themselves as their own little corporation. You teach, you practice your discipline, and [you] contribute to the body of knowledge for the discipline.”

Forrester will help the scholars develop entrepreneurship as part of their leadership training. Scholars will learn about managing, prioritizing activities for successful career development, and achieving satisfaction as a nursing faculty member.

Forrester and other expert faculty will design the curriculum for the nurse faculty mentorship program based on principles discussed in The Leadership Challenge model created by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, educators at Santa Clara (Calif.) University. In April 2010, the expert faculty will present the lessons during a three-day workshop for scholars and mentors to kick off the 18-month leadership development program.

“A variety of things will be discussed, things like expectations that you have of yourself or that colleagues or leadership within the academic institution will have, as well as your students,” Vlasich says. “The content is extremely rich.”

The scholars, mentors, and expert faculty will then meet online and talk by telephone. Throughout the mentorship, Forrester and other expert faculty will work with two scholar-mentor teams each, assisting with leadership and team development, creating an individualized progression plan for the scholar, and the planning, implementation, and evaluation of an educational project that will focus on one or more innovative ideas to improve student learning.

“What makes this unique is the intense, personal interaction,” Vlasich says. “Our leadership programs create very strong relationships between the mentor and scholar.”

The scholar-mentor teams will disseminate the results of their projects through journal articles, the Virginia Henderson International Nursing Library, and presentations at various events.

“I firmly believe that [this mentorship program] has the potential to better ensure the success and satisfaction of all those participating and for the nursing discipline as a whole by disseminating the innovative leadership projects and scholarship of these mentors and scholars,” Forrester says.

For additional information on the scholar-mentor program, visit Sigma Theta Tau International’s Web site at

By | 2020-04-15T14:44:34-04:00 September 7th, 2009|Categories: New York/New Jersey Metro, Regional|0 Comments

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