Facilitating Organizational Socialization of Adjunct Clinical Nursing Faculty

Tuesday, 10 November 2015: 8:30 AM

Julie Kientz Elting, EdD, MSN, BSN, APRN, RN, CNE
School of Nursing, Chaminade University, Honolulu, HI, USA

Organizational socialization of newly hired employees is facilitated by onboarding strategies that increase the employees’ role clarity, occupational self-efficacy, and feelings of acceptance by insiders.  In most settings onboarding strategies are thought to promote role adjustment in newcomers and lead to both increased job satisfaction and employee retention.  Typically, employee productivity is increased and organizational expenditures reduced when onboarding activities are successfully implemented.  However, in collegiate nursing programs little is currently known about the onboarding needs of clinical adjunct nursing faculty. Given that adjunct faculty typically spend the bulk of their working hours in clinical settings, with a relatively small portion of time spent at the parent academic institution, it is reasonable to assume the onboarding needs of adjunct faculty could be unique and that planned onboarding activities could be of particular importance.

This presentation reports results from a qualitative research project examining the onboarding practices of three universities in a major metropolitan area with recently hired clinical adjunct nursing faculty.  The study was designed to identify which onboarding practices clinical nursing adjunct faculty identified as beneficial and why they perceived these practices to be helpful.

Eight clinical nursing adjuncts with less than two years of employment in their current positions were recruited to participate.  All taught medical-surgical clinical courses and four were novice nursing educators in their first teaching position.  Each participant completed an online pre-interview survey using Klein and Polin’s Onboarding Activities Checklist of best and common onboarding practices. The checklist had been modified for nursing education, for example, substituting “dean or department chair” for “senior leaders.”  Using the checklist results, a semi-structured interview protocol was created.  Participants rated the perceived benefit of each onboarding practice using a Likert-type scale and then expanded on their responses. The interview results were compiled and analyzed within the Inform-Welcome-Guide structure in the Activities Checklist.  In addition, an administrator with responsibilities for newly hired adjuncts from each of the three universities also completed a modified version of the Onboarding Activities Checklist, identifying the occurrence and perceived importance of each activity.

The onboarding experiences of participants varied but they identified consistent benefits of onboarding practices, even when not directly experienced. These adjuncts desired role clarity at hiring and a need to feel effective as educators. They wanted relevant resources made available and responsive staff to answer questions or offer support. While not expecting fanfare when hired, they wanted to be a welcomed and valued part of their nursing programs. Altruistic obligation to students and the nursing profession helped participants overcome challenges in their new teaching roles. Each believed previous nursing and teaching experience should be considered when determining onboarding needs.

While these results are consistent with and lend additional support to current theories of organizational socialization, they also suggest that some onboarding activities are of greater relevance to clinical adjunct faculty than others.  Participants found benefit to most onboarding practices as employees or educators. Those who experienced the practices as part of their own onboarding process reported more indicators of positive organizational socialization. 

Limited time spent at the parent academic institution limits opportunities for informal interactions that provide information and guidance to adjuncts, increasing the need for well conceived and implemented onboarding practices that promote role clarity and occupational self-efficacy.  Issues related to insider acceptance are nuanced and onboarding activities need to be tailored to the unique circumstances of clinical adjunct faculty.

Results from administrator surveys demonstrated a general appreciation for the importance of onboarding activities.  However, the pattern of differential importance of various activities revealed in the data from adjunct faculty was not found.   This finding should be interpreted with some caution due to limited administrator sample size and the absence of data from semi-structured interviews.  Further research is needed to determine administrator perceptions regarding the need to tailor onboarding practices to the unique needs of clinical adjunct faculty.

 Further refinement of the Onboarding Activities Checklist to align with nursing education can provide a straight-forward process for clinical adjunct onboarding. Understanding the needs of clinical adjuncts promotes role adjustment and may lead to higher retention rates and enhanced educational outcomes.