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The Overlapping Roles of Nursing Faculty

Educators Article   (1,615 Views | 4 Replies | 819 Words)

PamtheNurse has 25 years experience as a BSN, MSN and specializes in Simulation.

3 Articles; 593 Profile Views; 8 Posts

Can You Have It All No Matter What The TV Says?

The demands of a nursing faculty role(s) can be overwhelming and lead to burnout. This article discussed the typical day of nursing faculty, the associated overlapping roles and preventative coping possible.

The Overlapping Roles of Nursing Faculty
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A typical nursing faculty day starts an hour or more early to check emails and get organized for the first lecture or class.  And bing!  An email calendar reminder: a 30-minute countdown to the curriculum committee meeting.  Frantic scrambling ensues – where are the previous meeting notes?  A dreaded discovery – today’s report is a totally forgotten one.  Off to the meeting with the embarrassment and self-torture brain tape running amuck.  Not quite what the TV sitcom portrays.


Two hours of teaching follows the meeting.  A class break between class one and two brings student appointments.  After class two is a quick lunch at the desk and phone calls.

Student Appointments

After lunch, three more student appointments, no break, term paper grading for the remainder of the afternoon. 

More Meetings

Late in the day - bing!  A phone alert reminder of a Nursing Department meeting and the research update presentation obligation as the (leadership requested) task force head.  More frantic scrambling looking for the presentation that - sigh – was found. 

Following the task force meeting… oh no! today is the library trip – now closed, so much for working on the dissertation.  Wearily locking the office door, juggling a tote bag full of nursing care plans to grade and leaving.  Yet, until the care plans are graded for tomorrow’s 12-hour clinical day, the day is not done.

There is More...

A typical day?  But wait there is more! In addition to teaching duties and responsibilities and serving on committees, there is completing license maintenance professional development hours.  Advanced practice faculty have to complete extended hours of continuing education credits to keep working.  As if that weren’t enough, common are requests for workshops or conference presentations, often outside of office hours.  Peer mentoring can eat up precious time, as can additional classes due to faculty shortage.  Active participation in research, self-credentialing, and community involvement are among the many other responsibilities.  Northwestern University found that 60.9% of faculty at public universities and 56% at private ones find committee work stressful. 

Overlapping Roles

Overlapping roles increases the demand for faculty time, which is already constrained with student needs and course requirements.  Far from the capability of doing it all, and not being able to meet basic responsibilities causes stress. The inability to meet leadership expectations with committee or task force assignments that may impact one’s chances for promotion or tenure exponentially increases the stress.  Northwestern University reported that three-quarters of their faculty suffered at least moderate to severe stress from multiple roles required for their position (Northwestern University, n.d.).

So, What Can Be Done? 

Considerations for leadership when assigning additional roles to stressed faculty are the possible stress associated conditions:

  • mental depression
  • anxiety
  • pessimism
  • inability to concentrate

Serious physiological ill that can occur:

  • Alcohol abuse
  • Substance abuse
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Sleep disorders
  • Headache
  • Muscle tension
  • Gastrointestinal ailments (Better Health, 2012)

Teachers who were surveyed listed several reasons for their job stress.  Here are some common themes:

  • Too little time
  • Not being able to develop their class
  • Not enough administrative support
  • Changing responsibilities (Mulholland, R. et al, 2013)

Consequences of nursing faculty stress on their performance include:

  • Less efficiency
  • Impaired student-faculty interaction
  • Poor student outcomes
  • Clinical errors especially medication errors
  • Placing patients at risk due to poor supervision of clinical students

Academic institutions should take advantage of opportunities to decrease the stress caused by overlapping responsibilities on nursing faculty:

  • Provide mentoring for new faculty before assigning additional tasks
  • Review whether current committees or task forces are necessary
  • Offer paid time off for faculty pursuing advanced degrees
  • Consider the course load of the instructor before recommending them to a committee
  • Rotate responsibilities throughout the nursing faculty community

Nursing Faculty can help themselves by:

  • Speaking to the Dean or Department Head when the workload gets overwhelming
  • Get help with prioritization and organization if necessary
  • Reach out to a mentor or colleague for help
  • Schedule some time for self to unwind and relax
  • Don’t take unnecessary work home
  • Take care of physical and mental health
  • Consider whether the job is worth the stress

Overlapping roles for the nursing faculty may never go away.  It is possible, however, to prevent hating the job you used to love.


Mulholland, R., McKinlay, A. and Sproule, J. (2013). Teacher interrupted: Work stress, strain and teaching role. Sage Journal, September 23, 2013. Retrieved: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/2158244013500965

Better Health (2012). Work-related stress: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/work-related-stress

PamtheNurse has 25 years experience as a BSN, MSN and specializes in Simulation.

3 Articles; 593 Profile Views; 8 Posts

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SafetyNurse1968 has 20 years experience as a ADN, BSN, MSN, PhD and specializes in Oncology, Home Health, Patient Safety.

12 Followers; 56 Articles; 357 Posts; 19,071 Profile Views

You have truly captured my life! Can I add two things to your article?

1. the stress of coworkers who won't collaborate. I taught patho for the first time last fall and the other two women who teach it have refused to let me look at their test questions and PowerPoints. They tell me that everything I need is in the syllabus... Whenever I've been in a position to help a newbie, I've bent over backwards to share my stuff. I'm baffled and exhausted at reinventing the wheel. Have you ever experienced this situation?

2. unclear lines of communication - we've got a new dean and it's becoming clear that she wants us to report everything to her as well as to the associate dean (who I thought was my "boss"). She contacted me a few days ago requesting a meeting with me. I am panicked wondering if it's a check-in or if I'm "in trouble" (I hate that I'm a grown adult wondering if I'm being sent to the principle's office)- feeling like it would be courteous for her to let me know...hopefully I'll get a chance to clarify with her at this meeting just who is my direct supervisor...

This job is SO hard. I love it so  much, I really do, but sometimes I get frustrated when I think about how easy it would be to make it easier...why can't we just talk to each other? It's the egos that seem to do the most damage.

Thanks for helping me feel not so alone!

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NurseLizabeeRN has 9 years experience as a BSN, MSN, RN and specializes in Pediatrics, Burn/Trauma, Med-Surg, Nurse Education.

56 Posts; 1,115 Profile Views

As a novice educator, having transitioned from bedside nursing last year, I can empathize with a lot of what you've presented here. I could print this out and I'm sure many of my colleagues would co-sign. Not that we do what we do for the money...but can we also talk about how full-time nurse faculty positions will NOT make you rich by a long shot? LOL

To my fellow nurse educators...we are doing the very hard work but be encouraged! You make the nursing world go around 🙂 

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I have definitely experienced most of these feelings.  I have been teaching for a while so I've learned a few things.  The culture of your school will often determine if you have support.  I have found for-profit schools lacking in support except on a local level.  I have been very fortunate to have, until recently, very engaged directors and deans.  But, if you don't have this, I would recommend seeking out someone who has been around, like me.  They often have many valuable tips for the novice teacher.  Please don't give up.  We need newbies like yourself to bring the profession to where it should be.  We want to teach students to be darn good nurses.  You can pass the NCLEX but not be a good nurse.  I'm just saying.....

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PamtheNurse has 25 years experience as a BSN, MSN and specializes in Simulation.

3 Articles; 8 Posts; 593 Profile Views


You have made some good points.  The overall tenor of your reply and the postings above is one that I have heard so often.  As a result, it is the topic of my doctoral effort and associated research.  The survey will be available here on allnurses.com soon!

Pam the Nurse 

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