Reflection & Dialogue #4 - Faculty Compensation, October 2009

Faculty Compensation
October 2009 


The mission of the NLN is to promote excellence in nursing education to build a strong and diverse nursing workforce. Consistent with our identity as the voice of nurse educators and our strategic goal to be proactive with emerging issues that impact nurse faculty in all types of nursing programs, the NLN conducted two national studies to identify factors that influence the national faculty workforce: The National Study of Faculty Role Satisfaction (NLN, 2003) and the NLN/Carnegie National Survey of Nurse Educators (2007). Both studies identified faculty compensation as a major factor in faculty satisfaction. Additionally, at the 2008 NLN Education Summit in San Antonio, faculty and deans from across the United States acknowledged that compensation for new faculty hires was a barrier to faculty recruitment and retention. 

Today nurse educators are predominantly between 46 and 65 years of age and plan to retire in the next 15 years (Berlin & Sechrist, 2002; Kowalaski, Dalley & Weigand, 2006; National League for Nursing, 2006). As reported in the NLN Annual Survey of Schools of Nursing (2006-2007), the faculty vacancy situation rose appreciably in one year. The study showed that nationwide more than 1,900 unfilled full time faculty positions existed in 2007, affecting more than 36 percent of all schools of nursing. In response, 84 percent of schools of nursing tried to hire faculty in 2007-2008. Of those, 79 percent found recruitment of faculty "difficult" and almost one in three schools found it "very difficult." The two main difficulties cited were "not enough qualified candidates" (cited by 46 percent of the schools), followed by inability to offer competitive salaries (cited by 38 percent). 

This document takes the position that compensation is more than salary. While the NLN acknowledges the importance of salary, we also affirm that external (political and world events), internal (institutional and community), and individual (personal and family) factors play a significant role in determinations of faculty compensation. Consideration of the interrelationship of these factors provides a context to reframe current thinking about compensation and a forum to discover creative solutions to the recruitment and retention of faculty.


  • Compensation packages and processes are influenced by the type of institution — public, private, union, or non-union. For example, the downturn of the global economy, specifically the stock market, has dramatically affected the availability of endowment monies in private institutions. And state-funded schools, which have historically struggled with a general lack of funds within their states, now must cope with even more restrictive budgetary processes as a result of the cutbacks from federal, state, and local sources. Consequently, their nursing leaders may have different messages about what has caused the severe economic strain and what creative solutions will resolve it in the near and distant future. 

  • Studies about successful faculty recruitment and retention reveal that positive outcomes result from a collaborative relationship among all stakeholders involved in developing quality work environments for nurse educators. Studies have validated the effect of the environment on faculty morale and productivity, including the physical environment and availability of material resources for faculty to achieve their career goals and the mission of the nursing organization. State-of-the-science teaching facilities, informatics/equipment (PDAs, computers, etc.), specifically designated lunch/break areas, wellness and exercise programs, and day care facilities all contribute to faculty satisfaction and are part of a comprehensive compensation package. 

  • Initiatives to ease the faculty shortage and address the aging nurse educator workforce have been developed. The federal Nurse Faculty Loan Program, for example, is designed to increase the number of nursing students who pursue careers as full-time faculty teaching in schools of nursing allowing nursing schools to make loans to their students enrolled in advanced degree nursing programs. The five-year, $22 million "New Jersey Nursing Initiative," launched by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, is an example of a regional program. Through the Faculty Preparation Program component of the initiative, New Jersey nursing scholars will be given full tuition and fees to achieve their masters or doctoral degrees; each will receive a laptop and $50,000 stipend. Similar regional programs throughout the United States aim to put more faculty in place to prepare the next generation of nurses by creating incentives to move graduates into nurse educator advanced practice roles. 

  • Nurse educators have the potential to play an active role in their career and professional advancement. Using mutual respect, collaboration, and cooperation to showcase their accomplishments such as continued advanced education, sustained clinical experience, and certification, nurse educators can propose creative workload opportunities. For example, a 30-year-old nurse faculty member with a young child, who is an expert in hospice care, requested that she be permitted to work from home when her schedule permitted. She was highly productive and volunteered to be the champion to learn and develop scenarios related to home care for the human patient simulator. Her request was approved in recognition of her productivity (whether from home or office); her contribution to keeping the school on the cutting edge of technology; her (electronic) availability to students, peers, and supervisors; and to meet her need for work/life balance. This is an example of collaboration between stakeholders.

Recommendations for Chairs, Directors, and Deans

  • Establish creative ways to make the budgetary process transparent. Faculty need to understand the challenges of advocating for nurse faculty at an institution where many competing demands make it difficult to address market inequities in faculty salaries. They also need to know they are being treated fairly in the areas of salary and compensation. Open and transparent channels of communication will help achieve these goals.

  • Sustain a meaningful system of faculty recognition as a method to build faculty standing within the college or university and to foster a community of scholars. Examples include a system of regular nomination of faculty for awards, recognition, or high visibility service opportunities and internal presentations by faculty to peers through brown bag lunches and/or faculty recognitions days. The establishment of program goals for faculty development has proved highly motivating for faculty. For example, several programs fostered review courses to meet a program goal that all eligible faculty will attain the CNE designation by a specific date. Another example is the development of tuition reimbursement programs or the creation of faculty release time appointments to assist a percentage of faculty to attain a doctorate within a set number of years.

  • Provide a structured mentoring program for career advancement and role development for all new faculty hires; assist new faculty to participate in grant-funded leadership opportunities, e.g., the RWJF Nurse-Faculty Scholar Program, the Johnson and Johnson/NLN Faculty Leadership and Mentoring Program, theNLN Scholarly Writing Retreat. Support the retention of faculty who have been with the organization through mentoring, faculty development, and career enhancement opportunities.

  • Support faculty work beyond specific teaching responsibilities by accounting for invisible service within workload (e.g., clinical placement, advisement, student mentorship, committee or community service, sponsorship of student association or honor society chapters, etc.) and by creating and supporting flexible scheduling opportunities that address individual needs (e.g. flexibility in work hours and location.

  • Engage in political processes that influence and develop legislation that impacts nursing education and workforce development, specifically programs related to funding for stipends, scholarships, and loan repayment programs (visit NLN Government Affairs and the Government Affairs Action Center). Get to know local foundations and the members of their boards of governors and, of course, become a board member. Share with them the story of nurse educators and their connections with the provision of safe quality health care through the graduates they produce.

  • Utilize data about compensation and the nurse faculty shortage to update local and state legislators about nurse educator workforce issues and to solicit local grants by accessing NLN DataViewâ„¢ and documents such as the NLN testimony to the Senate Committee on Finance Hearing on Workforce Issues in Health Care Reform.

Recommendations for Faculty
  • Develop a career plan that incorporates national competencies of the nurse educator role, builds a science of nursing education, and addresses all components of the faculty role (such as teaching, service, scholarship, etc.) These actions favorably influence advancement in rank and compensation packages.

  • Support your chair, dean, or director who cannot advocate for a quality workplace, including salary, without faculty support.

  • Understand your institutions compensation policy and develop a personal plan for career advancement, recognizing that collaboration and cooperation can overcome most barriers to successful negotiation for a full range of compensation options.

  • Identify early in your career the goal of progressing in the clinical or academic track. Align personal career efforts with the appropriate education, mentors, and experiences to advance in academic rank or on the clinical ladder.

  • Develop faculty teams (peers) to support academic progression of the faculty.

  • Participate and contribute to a work environment of civility toward others. Civility in the workplace encourages retention and attraction of new faculty and it models the work behavior for learners.
Colleagues, these are our thoughts at this point. Please join us in the dialogue and of course, the reflection: 

  1. What are the common issues regarding compensation across all types of programs? What are the key factors that contribute significantly to faculty recruitment and retention, role satisfaction, and a sense of belonging and value?

  2. How have chairs/directors/deans managed faculty recruitment and retention in the current economic environment? What are examples of creative approaches to compensation that schools of nursing have developed to improve the process of hiring and retaining talented faculty and to assure long-term employment of new hires?

  3. How will we, as faculty colleagues, discuss salary without it becoming an adversarial issue between and among nurse faculty in different roles? How will we create a friendly and caring work environment, while finding ways to be responsive to individual faculty needs?

  4. What factors need to be altered or created to foster a work culture of professionalism, nurse educator competency development, support and civility? How do they affect attracting and retaining nurse educators?

  5. If salary can not be altered in the work setting, what other alternatives can be created to achieve other aspects of faculty compensation?

The related Faculty Compensation news release can be found on the NLN website at:

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