Adjusting to Academic Life: Experiences of Early Career Nursing and Midwifery Faculty

Thursday, 2 August 2012: 3:55 PM

Kath Peters, RN, BN (Hons), PhD1
Elizabeth Halcomb, RN, BN (Hons), PhD1
Debra Jackson, RN, PhD2
Yenna Salamonson, RN, BSc, CCUCert, GDNEd, MA, PhD1
Sharon Andrew, RN, RM, BAppSc, MSc (Hons), PhD3
John Daly, RN, BA (Ed), BHSc (Nursing), MEd (Hons), PhD2
Joanne Gray, BHlthSc, GradCertHEd, MNurs, PhD2
(1)School of Nursing and Midwifery, University of Western Sydney, Penrith South DC NSW, Australia
(2)Faculty of Nursing, Midwifery and Health, University of Technology Sydney, Sydney, Australia
(3)Faculty of Health, Social Care & Education, Anglia Ruskin University, Chelmsford, United Kingdom

Learning Objective 1: The learner will be able to understand the difficulties faced by new nursing and midwifery academics.

Learning Objective 2: The learner will be able to identify strategies to better support career development in new nursing and midwifery academics.


Inadequate numbers of nurse graduates from doctoral programs, as well as the ageing nursing workforce, have contributed to an acute shortage of suitably qualified faculty in the areas of nursing and midwifery internationally. This shortage has led to increasing numbers of new academics and a dependence on sessional staff in order to meet the teaching and learning demands of curricula. Previous research suggests that new academics and sessional staff may encounter substantial difficulty transitioning into academia. The aim of this paper is to provide insights into the experiences of new nursing and midwifery faculty as they embark on an academic career. This paper presents qualitative findings from a larger multi-phase project funded by the Australian Learning and Teaching Council. The larger project aimed to facilitate the transition of early career nursing and midwifery academics from novice to confident and effective academics and develop a model of leadership development to support them in developing leadership capacity.


Twenty-six early career nursing and midwifery academics from two universities, who had been teaching within the tertiary sector for less than five years, participated in this study. Data were collected via face to face interviews between 20 and 90 minutes in duration. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim, and imported into NVivo before being thematically analyzed.


Findings provide insights into some of the difficulties faced by early career nursing and midwifery academics. These findings also inform strategies to assist in supporting this group to develop in all aspects of their academic career.


Sustainable strategies that endeavour to assist nurses and midwives adapt to academia are required to enhance effective career development and ensure leadership capacity is fostered in this group.