A key attribute in the selection of nursing faculty, which was identified throughout all three rounds of this study, was research capacity. This finding was clearly reflected by the responses to the forced-choice questions where the PhD-prepared candidate option was nearly exclusively selected. Furthermore, qualitative evidence regarding the participants’ rationales suggests that research ability is a key consideration in the hiring of nursing faculty. The respondents’ collective perception that DNP-prepared nursing faculty were lacking in this key attribute was identified as a barrier to their potential integration.
This finding was further supported by a statistical analysis of participant’s demographic characteristics related to responses. Based on the demographic characteristics collected, participant’s educational preparation revealed a pattern of preference in the hiring scenarios. Amongst PhD prepared participants, the PhD faculty profile was preferred, 84% of time, for all hiring scenarios. No other demographic characteristics were significantly associated with scenario selection patterns. During round two inter-rater agreement was questionable due to the small sample size. However, as few participants changed their selection the Kappa values in round one (0.16 [95% CI = –0.06 to 0.38]) were higher than in round two (0.11 [95% CI = –0.03 to 0.25]). These statistical findings suggest a preference for PhD educational preparation as a key attribute in the selection of nursing faculty.
RQ2. Systems of Tenure and Promotion
Structures, like tenure, were found to impact the hiring and utilization of nursing faculty possessing terminal practice-based degrees. Specifically, tenure was reported by the participants to be a significant barrier for DNP-prepared faculty, especially at universities. Evidence was offered which established that, at some universities, these structures even explicitly prohibit faculty possessing these degrees from achieving tenure. However, other institutions were not as decisive because a master’s degree was a common minimum educational requirement for tenure at Canadian undergraduate nursing programs. Colleges, commonly partnered with a university, were described as being hospitable to DNP-prepared faculty because they do not have the same regulatory academic structures and/or bounds of a university. Despite this context, a key finding of this study was a desire by the participants for evolution in these systems to be inclusive of alternative forms of scholarship.
RQ3. Potential Roles
The perception that DNP-prepared faculty could serve in a teaching track role emerged throughout the study and achieved consensus in round three. This perception was supported through comments by participants about their previous experiences with DNP-prepared faculty or the belief that DNPs are prepared to translate knowledge into practice, which benefits patient care and nursing students. Further, it was suggested that: "[H]aving a balance of faculty prepared with both significant research and clinical practice is needed in nursing programs in order to best support student learning. Nursing is a practice discipline so having faculty with strong practice foundation is essential.”
Concerns for the integration of DNP-prepared faculty was also identified. Specifically, fear was expressed for the erosion of the role of a PhD-prepared educator, which could have a detrimental impact on the nursing profession. This was identified as the substitution of DNP-prepared faculty for PhDs and the concomitant dilution of research capability amongst nursing faculty.
A consequence of the perceived lack of research ability amongst DNP graduates was expressed through potential barriers for faculty possessing non-traditional doctoral degrees. As the study progressed, the participants’ attitude of whether they would recommend faculty to pursue a DNP degree shifted significantly. Initially, only 26.7% of participants advised that they would recommend the DNP to faculty seeking to advance their education. In round two, the participants support for the degree shifted significantly to 62.5% but was accompanied by a caveat. A need was expressed to make faculty aware of the limitations for an academic career associated with the degree. The limitations identified by the respondents centered on an inability to achieve tenure at certain types of institutions and the impact this choice could have on a “full academic career.”