The Effect of Teaching and Mentoring Doctoral Students on Their Work-Life Balance

Monday, 9 November 2015: 2:05 PM

Suzanne C. Smeltzer, EdD, MS, RN, ANEF, FAAN
College of Nursing, Villanova University, Villanova, PA, USA

Purpose and Significance:  Work-life balance (WLB), which refers to one’s ability to achieve and maintain a “balance” or equilibrium between one’s paid work and life outside work, whatever “life” involves for the individual, has been identified as one of the elements of a healthy work environment for nursing faculty. It may also be important in faculty members' intent to remain in or leave a position. As part of the larger study, this study examined WLB of doctoral program faculty and explored strategies they used to achieve and maintain a 'balance' between work and life outside work.

Methods:   Data were collected via an on-line survey distributed nationally and completed by 554 faculty teaching in PhD or DNP programs. The survey was based on literature review and focus group data from PhD and DNP faculty. The focus groups addressed teaching/research/scholarship/service commitments, scholarly productivity, strategies to support research/scholarship activities and work-life balance.  The 15-item Work/Life Balance Self-Assessment scale was used in this study to assess faculty’s perception of WLB. They were asked to indicate the frequency of performance of specific behaviors on the scale during the past three months using a 7-point time-related scale. Data were analyzed using frequencies, analysis of variance, and hierarchical regression.

Results:  Hierarchical regression revealed that current faculty position, hours spent weekly teaching, availability of research/teaching assistants, and the presence of an MSN program option explained 7.3% of the variance in WLB. After controlling for these characteristics, sacrificing time for self to fulfill work responsibilities, perception that family responsibilities are incompatible with work role, feeling that time spent focusing on doctoral students resulted in exhaustion, reporting that workload is detrimental to health and well-being, and experiencing fulfillment in performing the work role together predicted an additional 56.5% of the variance in WLB. Of note, younger faculty had poorer work-life balance than older, more seasoned faculty.

Conclusions and Implications:  Although several factors found to be associated with WLB are a function of faculty members’ age, faculty rank, and time in their faculty role, other factors can be modified to improve faculty members’ WLB.  With the increased wave of nursing faculty retirements anticipated in the next few years, strategies to improve faculty members’ work-life balance so may be important in retaining experienced faculty to teach and mentor future doctoral students.  The retirements of senior faculty will result in new, younger faculty members from generation X and generation Y who are less tolerant of the heavy workloads and lack of work-life balance than their colleagues, resulting in the need to address this issue in subsequent years.