Developing an Honors Program in Nursing through the NFLA Experience

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Larry Slater, PhD, RN-BC, CCRN
New York University College of Nursing, New York, NY, USA
Ellen B. Buckner, PhD, RN, CNE
College of Nursing, University of South Alabama, Mobile, AL, USA
D. Anthony (Tony) Forrester, PhD, RN, ANEF, FAAN
Division of Nursing Science, Rutgers University School of Nursing, Newark, NJ, USA

Background: As the wave of nursing retirements rises over the next decade, the profession will begin to lose its most cherished leaders in clinical practice and nursing education. It is imperative that the profession actively engage new nurse faculty to become leaders and change agents not only within their academic institutions, but in their communities and the nursing profession. The Nurse Faculty Leadership Academy (NFLA) was created by The Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International and The Elsevier Foundation to develop junior faculty scholars (those with 2 to 5 years in the faculty role). Upon completion of the Academy, the scholars will possess the leadership skills necessary to help prepare our next generation of clinical and faculty nurse leaders.

Purpose: The purpose of the NFLA is to develop junior nurse faculty scholars through engagement in three domains: individual leadership development; design and implementation of a team leadership project improving nursing education and benefiting the scholar’s organization; and expanding scope of influence in the organization, community, and profession. The focus of the scholar’s leadership project was to develop an honors program for high-achieving, traditional baccalaureate nursing students. The program aims to cultivate the high-achieving nursing student’s quest for scholarship in practice, research, teaching, and service through innovative programming and instructional excellence, preparing these future nurses to serve populations locally and globally through the advancement of nursing science.

Methods: The NFLA is an 18-month intensive experience in which the scholar participates in two in-person workshops, monthly leadership calls with other scholars, and two site visits at the scholar’s academic institution. Throughout the program, the scholar works hand in hand with a dedicated leadership mentor and a faculty adviser (relationship of three) to develop and evaluate the scholar’s growth in the three academy domains. Using the Kouzes and Posner’s exemplary leadership practices as a guide (The Leadership Challenge, 2012), the scholar’s leadership growth occurs through action, with the development and implementation of a team leadership project. 

The scholar enlisted a team of four faculty to design an honors program for 4-year, traditional baccalaureate students. The team conducted an extensive literature review on honors education in nursing, completed an in depth organizational history on honors education at the academic institution, and developed a comprehensive stakeholder analysis in order to lay the foundation for program development. The team is also conducting an IRB-approved faculty and student needs survey to guide program development. The team has continued to engage key stakeholders including admissions, advising, development, marketing, and administration, allowing project team members to expand their own scopes of influence within the academic institution as the program continues to develop. In addition, team meetings also include leadership development activities, promoting individual team members’ growth and exemplifying NFLA’s call to develop faculty within the scholar’s academic institution.

Results: With assistance from the leadership mentor, faculty adviser, and local leadership observers, the scholar created an extensive individual leadership development plan (ILDP) that addressed 4 of the 5 Kouzes and Posner practices. The ILDP aided the scholar in developing positive verbal and non-verbal communication patterns for fostering team building and promoting collaborative and constructive change within the scholar’s academic institution. In addition, the ILDP guided the scholar in identifying personal leadership styles, values, and philosophies that have facilitated leadership growth. The scholar’s growth has enabled him to expand his scope of influence within the academic institution, with committee leadership at the departmental, college, and university levels, as well as the profession, serving on boards and taskforces at the local, state, and international levels.

The NFLA project team at the scholar’s institution has continued to position themselves to become leaders in honors education in nursing. The team has published an encyclopedia entry on nursing honors programs and has an article in press detailing the history of nursing honors and providing perspectives on the implementation of nursing honors programs to develop future nursing leaders. The team has developed the program’s mission, vision, and outcomes and is currently completing curriculum development modeled on interprofessional education. In addition, the team has finalized the application and admission process, which will be instituted in the Fall of 2015 to admit the first cohort of students in the Fall of 2016.

Conclusions: The NFLA is an exciting, innovative program to facilitate junior nurse faculty scholars in developing key leadership skills for personal and career growth. It also provides a framework for sustainable advancement of leadership growth within the scholar’s organization and community to expand the cadre of clinical and faculty nurse leaders for years to come.