Authors

  1. Mintz-Binder, Ronda DNP, RN

Article Content

I commend and applaud Drs Pressler and Kenner for their series of articles in the "Rx for Deans" department that recognize the issues facing new or interim deans of nursing. I was dean of nursing at an associate degree nursing (ADN) program in California for 5.5 years. I began my deanship before the age of 42 years and left at the age of 47 years. My primary reasons for leaving the position were personal.

 

The issues faced by the average ADN program director, dean, assistant or associate dean, and/or department chair are unique in comparison with deans of university-level schools or colleges of nursing. This perspective should be shared occasionally in the Rx for Deans series. A primary issue is that there are multiple titles for this position, which complicates the picture. Often with scant resources, most ADN program directors run a "one-person show" without formal assistance from assistant directors who are granted actual, usable, helpful release time. In many programs, directors not only single handedly manage and run multiple programs besides the prelicensure ADN program but also teach 1 to 6 units of course work. In addition, the directors manage their own departmental budgets along with state enrollment grants to increase the number of nursing students. Associate degree nursing program directors usually have annual evaluations to perform on all their full-time and part-time faculty, as well as board of nursing reports and National League for Nursing reports and forms. Appropriate clerical and/or secretarial support is sorely lacking. Moreover, there are college committees and meetings to attend on a weekly and monthly basis. Then, of course, there are management of faculty concerns and issues and student-faculty issues with the hope of avoiding a grievance, policy, and curriculum changes, and if one is really "fortunate," a director has the "joy" of facing a faculty discipline issue, with or without union presence depending on the state. As you can tell, these are all the responsibilities and duties of the ADN director, and these duties cannot be delegated.

 

With this as backdrop, many of the articles, and in particular, Making the Most of the Honeymoon Phase of a Deanship, are far too simplistic and idealistic when one walks into a monumental position that continues to grow until it spirals out of control. Ideally, as in relationships, it would be wonderful for honeymoons to last beyond a few months. Maybe, that is possible in the world of university life. However, in associate degree education in many states, directors or deans are usually personally involved in issues that deans in universities are able to delegate to others. Although it would seem probable to create new faculty and staff positions as programs grow, all new positions must be approved at the management level and prioritized based on all college departmental needs. Unfortunately, a disenchantment phase with occasional steps into a reality phase of directorship or deanship is more commonplace in this type of position. Deans who are successful at this balancing act are rewarded by being given more to do-more work, more stress, more deadlines, and more e-mails-and ultimately, a true sense of loneliness and isolation prevails. Others, except current ADN directors who are equally as busy and unavailable, do not seem to understand the stress, burnout, frustration, and lack of assistance let alone support that take their toll on ADN administrators who ultimately exit the position.

 

Turnover, extended open vacancies, and few, if any, appropriately qualified and willing applicants exist. Why would someone apply for this type of work? Why would full-time faculty exchange essentially a 34-week teaching position with an 18-hour course load for a 48-week, 50-hours-a-week position with 24/7 responsibility? More pay perhaps? Faculty repeatedly say that $10,000 to $20,000 extra dollars a year is simply not worth the additional stress and strain.

 

More deans and directors need to share and write about the reality and rewards of deanships. However, few do outside of lunches and discussions at ADN director meetings. Although consequences of pointing out problems can be dire for the "whistleblower," until overworked deans and directors voice their concerns, change will not occur. What changes should occur?

 

To propose proper solutions, dialogue about the issues has to be more transparent and then research has to be done on these issues. Grant monies to study academic leadership are sparse at this time. Finally, there is money to study the nursing faculty shortage, but what about the leaders who are about to leave or retire? What about the leaders who have stayed over the usual 3 to 5 years? What circumstances fostered their longevity? Was there adequate secretarial support or use of multiple assistant directors with release time? What can we learn from successful and long-term directors while they are still in their positions before they retire? How can new deans and directors be better prepared to tackle these challenges?

 

There is great concern in academia that as current deans and directors retire or vacate their positions, others are not readily willing and available to take charge. The convenient reason is that there is a shortage of nursing faculty. My experience tells me that the true reason is because current positions are overwhelming and unattractive for prospective candidates. As the authors of the Rx for Deans articles have pointed out, there are no training programs or guidelines to advance into the ranks of a dean or program director, which also makes this a dubious transition. Until there is position containment, clear and stable role identification, and the proper availability of resources and support, we will not have a new pool of candidates. It is time to examine these roles and develop reasonable and healthy alternatives. We cannot wait any longer.

 

Ronda Mintz-Binder, DNP, RN,

 

Assistant Professor

 

University of Texas at Arlington, Texas

 

Former Dean, Los Angeles City College

 

Los Angeles, California

 

rondamb@uta.edu