Perceptions of Empowerment in Full-Time Faculty

Research Article

Austin J Nurs Health Care. 2014;1(1): 1001.

Perceptions of Empowerment in Full-Time Faculty

Kimberly Silver Dunker*

Department of Nursing, University of Massachusetts, USA

*Corresponding author: Kimberly Silver Dunker, Department of Nursing, University of Massachusetts, USA

Received: July 20, 2014; Accepted: July 24, 2014; Published: July 26,, 2014


The purpose of this study was to examine the perception of empowerment among full-time nursing faculty using a descriptive, correlational study design. The attributes of empowerment provide essential components in building a satisfied and sustainable workplace academic environment. The Conditions of Work Effectiveness Questionnaire (CWEQ), adapted for college nurse educators was used with a convenience sample (n = 256/732) of full-time nursing faculty who teach in associate, baccalaureate, or graduate nursing programs. The overall empowerment score was moderate. The lowest subscale was access to resources, and the highest was access to opportunity. Job satisfaction and overall empowerment were significantly related. Both formal and informal powers were significant predictors of overall empowerment. Nurse educators who reported high levels of empowerment had high levels of job satisfaction and greater opportunities in the academic environment. Barriers to empowerment included information about salary and resources in their job. Cultivating an empowering workplace will enhance retention and recruitment of nursing faculty.

Keywords: Nursing faculty; Empowerment; Job Satisfaction; Shortage


NLN: National League for Nursing; AACN: American Association of Colleges of Nursing; CWEQ: Conditions of Work Effectiveness Questionnaire; JAS: Job Activities Scale; ORS: Organizational Relationship Scale; CNE: Certified Nursing Educators; CWEQ-NE: Conditions of Work Effectiveness Questionnaire for Nurse Educators; IRB: Institutional Review Board

Challenges for the Nursing Profession

The nursing profession is facing a serious faculty shortage, which will reach significant proportions over the next decade [1-3]. The NLN/Carnegie Foundation National Study of Nurse Educators (2007) presented issues related to compensation, workload, and teaching practice of nursing educators, as well as information on faculty demographics and reasons behind the nursing faculty shortage. Moreover, assessing the faculty work environment especially attributes of faculty empowerment that include access to opportunity, resources, support, and information, is vital to impacting and improving job satisfaction, recruitment, and retention.

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) has identified faculty recruitment and retention as important strategies for addressing the shortage for almost a decade [4-7].Other considerations include declining number of faculty due to aging, younger faculty joining the ranks, obstacles to attaining doctoral degrees, salary differentials, tuition, loan burden for graduate study, and age of nurses returning to graduate school in preparation for educator roles [4-7].

Currently the mean age of doctorally prepared nursing faculty is 54.3 and 49.2 for master’s prepared [7]. In the next decade, it is anticipated that large number of faculty will retire or leave the profession due to dissatisfaction with workload requirements, personal and family health, financial security, and requirements that doctoral degrees be attained to continue in faculty roles [8,9].

Lower salaries remain a major factor inhibiting recruitment of qualified professionals [8,10-12]. The ability to offer competitive salaries for teaching continues to be a struggle in academia because of market share and the need for equality between departments and across disciplines in colleges and universities. Nursing salaries in the service setting, have risen higher then faculty positions, and academic institutions cannot compete with nonacademic employers [4,13].

As a result, finding and keeping master’s and doctorally prepared nurses in academia is challenging. The NLN/Carnegie Foundation (2007) surveyed nurse educators on their likelihood to leave their current job in the near future. 53% percent of respondents reported salary as a key motivator. If salary is not competitive, then to recruit and retain nursing faculty, it is critically important to have excellent workplace environments and tuition reimbursement [8,9,12,14].

Academic institutions must now assess and identify ways to increase satisfaction, autonomy, and organizational commitment in the workplace. Ultimately, if nursing faculty are satisfied and empowered, they will have greater commitment to and trust in the organization, and they will remain in the profession. Promoting empowerment in the workplace may foster increased work satisfaction, organizational commitment, and ultimately the retention of nursing faculty.

Theoretical Perspectives

[15-17] Adaptations of this theory of empowerment provide the theoretical framework that underpins this research. Kanter, researched how organizations are structured and the effect the structure has on employees, and she is credited for developing the conceptual “power” model that has been widely used and applied to nursing administration.

According to [16] in order for organizations to provide an empowering work environment, four attributes must be present: (a) creation of opportunities, (b) effective information, (c) access to resources, and (d) increased support at each level of the organization. Institutions that provide these attributes foster an empowering workplace [15,18]. Empowering environments are important indicators in determining burnout, work satisfaction, and job performance in academic nursing faculty [19]. Work environments that satisfy employees may increase retention of current nursing faculty and provide incentive for new faculty to be recruited. Cultivating an empowering workplace environment for nursing faculty is one strategy in this process [20].

Empowerment in Nursing Education

The literature is sparse on studies pertaining to empowerment and nursing education [19] conducted one study that looked specifically at the nurse educator’s workplace empowerment and the relationship to burnout and job satisfaction. That descriptive, correlational research used the Conditions of Work Effectiveness Questionnaire (CWEQ), Job Activities Scale (JAS), Organizational Relationship Scale (ORS), the Maslach Burnout Inventory Educatory Survey, and the Global Job Satisfaction questionnaire. A total of 146 full- and part-time community college nurse educators were recruited, with a response rate of 61% (89), and findings revealed that limited access to opportunity and lack of resources were significantly related to low levels of empowerment. Nurse educators who had high levels of empowerment and low burnout also reported high levels of job satisfaction. Faculty empowerment and job satisfaction were related to the number of students in the classroom and the number of hours worked in a week [20], also utilized a descriptive, correlational study design to examine organizational culture and empowerment within associate degree faculty. A total of 407 faculty teaching in 70 associate degree nursing programs in the southeastern United States were surveyed, with a response rate of 34.8% (142). This study used surveys including a demographic questionnaire, an organizational culture assessment instrument by [21,22] an instrument to measure psychological empowerment by [20,22] used regression analysis to explore the relationship between demographic factors, organizational culture, and empowerment. She found that personal demographic variables were not statistically significant contributors to organizational culture or empowerment. She did find, however, that rank and years employed as associate degree nursing faculty were significant contributors to faculty empowerment [23], used a descriptive, correlational survey to test psychological empowerment in a sample of 592 full-time associate degree educators employed in 74 public California community colleges. They used the CWEQ, a job diagnostic survey, and a demographic questionnaire, with a response rate of 23.4% (139) from 36 of the 74 colleges. Results indicated that associate degree nurse educators’ perceived overall high levels of job satisfaction and moderate levels of empowerment in their workplaces. Having opportunity, formal and informal power, global empowerment, and information in their job significantly correlated with higher levels of empowerment. However, having limited resources to do their job was significantly related to low levels of empowerment.

Ultimately the assessment of the attributes associated with empowerment is an important concept to research in nursing educators because it can provide information regarding what faculty need to feel satisfied in their work environments. More information on this concept and its relationship between variables such as program type, education preparation, and presence of certification are important to determining and understanding the aspects that provide or impede an empowering workplace environment.


This study utilized a descriptive, correlational survey to measure full-time nursing faculty’s perception of empowerment in their workplace. There were 256 responses (34.7%); to solicitation for participation, these, 219 (85.5%) were from full-time teachers in associate, baccalaureate, or pre-licensure master’s degree nursing programs; and the other 37 (14.4%) respondents identified themselves as teaching full time in other types of academic programs. A power analysis completed prior to the data collection indicated a minimum total sample of 252 was needed to achieve 80% power to detect a moderate effect size; therefore this was satisfied. Figure 1 illustrates the entire sampling method.