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Adjuncts Teach Students the Ropes

Ever since starting her nursing career, Carmen Feliciano, RN, MS, has been passionate about mentoring new nurses. A staff nurse in the ICU at Beth Israel Medical Center in Manhattan, she often was the go-to person when nurse managers needed a preceptor.

In 2006, her nurse manager offered to recommend her for an adjunct faculty position at Phillips Beth Israel School of Nursing. As an adjunct, she would continue working full time on the unit and, in addition, take on a part-time role teaching students in the clinical area. Feliciano was thrilled with the opportunity to train the next generation of nurses.

As nursing school enrollments continue to increase, more schools are hiring adjunct faculty to teach, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. In many cases, the greatest need is for adjuncts who can lead clinical groups. Adjunct professors teach part time, generally teaching one or two classes a semester in an area of specialty. Although lecture halls can hold increasing class sizes, the ratio requirements in clinical groups are typically a maximum of 10 students, and lower for certain specialty areas.

For both the schools and the adjuncts, this trend in nursing education seems to be a win-win situation, says Mary Alice Donius, RN, EdD, dean of the school of nursing at The College of New Rochelle (N.Y.).

“In many cases the master’s prepared nurse can’t afford to teach full time due to salary constraints, but they have a desire to mentor younger students and give back,” Donius says. “Working as an adjunct allows them to work and teach. From my perspective as a dean, we could not run the program without committed adjuncts. They make it possible for us to provide an excellent clinical experience at the undergraduate level.”

Swelling Student Enrollment

Mary Alice Donius, RN

At Phillips Beth Israel School of Nursing, the number of adjuncts has increased in proportion to the student enrollment increase. In the past five years, both the number of students and adjunct faculty have doubled. The school now has about 270 students and more than 20 adjuncts.

“We needed nurses to teach in [the] clinical [setting], and the beauty of using adjuncts who are already working in a hospital is that their clinical expertise is phenomenal,” says Janet Mackin, RN, EdD, dean of Phillips Beth Israel School of Nursing. “The adjunct faculty know that our students will someday become their co-workers, so there is a huge commitment to making sure the students are clinically competent.”

Adjuncts not only provide up-to-date clinical expertise, but also flexibility for the nursing schools. The number of clinical groups may vary from semester to semester, and adjuncts can be hired on an as-needed basis. Adjuncts are required to have master’s degrees and experience in their areas of specialty. Many have been preceptors and earned certifications in their specialty. Compensation varies, but at Felician College in Lodi, N.J., clinical adjunct faculty are paid $80 an hour. They spend one day a week in a clinical setting supervising 10 students for a 15-week semester and earn $9,600.

Before teaching a clinical group, adjuncts typically meet with a course coordinator to review the class syllabus and coordinate with the professor who is teaching the didactic portion of the course. At Felician College, nursing adjuncts participate in a collegewide adjunct faculty orientation where they hear from the president of the college and learn about support systems available to students, such as the library resources or counseling health services.

“The more engaged the adjuncts are, the more they will feel a part of the college,” says Muriel Shore, RN, EdD, NEA-BC, dean and professor of the division of nursing and health management at Felician. “We do mentoring to touch base and see how they are doing, and we encourage them to have ongoing communication with the full-time faculty. If they are having trouble with a student, for example, then the professor and the adjunct can discuss the situation together.”

One common challenge new clinical adjuncts face is dealing with students who are not meeting expectations, Mackin says. New adjuncts sometimes blame themselves for a student’s poor performance, when in reality students may not have studied, completed homework or spent enough time in the simulation lab, Mackin says.

“Our program support chair, Lynn Rubenstein (RN-BC, MA), does a great job guiding and supporting new faculty,” Mackin says. “She matches them with course coordinators, includes them on faculty development activities and they can reach her 24/7.”

In the spring, Phillips Beth Israel plans to start offering a formal mentoring program for adjuncts in which they will be paired with a full-time faculty member. The mentors will provide guidance about everything including career goals and how to handle a disruptive student.

Rewards of Teaching

Janet Mackin, RN

At Phillips Beth Israel, many of the adjuncts have come through referrals from nurses who are working in one of the hospitals partnering with the school. Mackin acknowledges that although taking on a clinical group for 15 weeks may seem fairly easy, it is not. Adjuncts are expected to arrive about an hour before the shift to prepare for the clinical group, and it can be challenging to monitor all of the students as they work on the unit. Adjuncts also are expected to complete a large amount of paperwork, such as grading student care plans.

Although working as an adjunct is demanding, Feliciano finds deep satisfaction in helping students connect what they learn in the classroom with experience in the hospital. “In my regular day job, it is rewarding when I see the patients get better, but when I adjunct I am being a role model and shaping the future of nursing,” she says. “I know these students will be taking care of me when I am older, and this clinical experience is going to shape their careers for the rest of their lives.”

By | 2020-04-15T13:18:54-04:00 March 7th, 2011|Categories: New York/New Jersey Metro, Regional|0 Comments

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