Transitioning from Clinical Nursing to Nursing Faculty

This tool kit was prepared by Hilda Haynes-Lewis, Jonas Veteran Healthcare Scholar (2014-2016) and Triniece Pearson, Jonas Nurse Leader Scholar (2014-2016) for the Graduate Nursing Student Academy (GNSA). AACN has not officially endorsed the materials contained therein. 

Note: The resources of this tool kit are not exhaustive. This document is a starting point of articles that inform the transition to nursing faculty.

The nursing shortage has fueled increased demand for nursing faculty. The average age of nursing faculty is increasing and many are expected to retire in the next decade. The demand to educate new nurses has led nursing schools to look for new solutions that solve the nursing faculty shortage. These solutions include developing new faculty roles that ease the transition from the bedside to academia. Since nursing faculty are on the forefront of creating the next generation of registered and advance practice nurses, increasing the number of nursing faculty, especially those of diverse ethnic backgrounds is also imperative to the advancement of the field. 

Nurses are an integral part of the healthcare team. Changing from clinical to academic life and balancing both can cause role strain. Role strain stems from a conflict between the familiar expectations in your current role as a clinician and the new demands of an academic position. Taking time to thoroughly consider the transition to academia is the first step. This tool kit and webinar are here to inform and serve as a starting point when considering a faculty role. A guide to mapping out the transition and the responsibilities of desired faculty roles are discussed.

The purpose of this tool kit is to:

  • Explore the concept of role change and the impact of role change, from clinician to faculty, on the individual.
  • To provide a theoretical framework for transitioning into a faculty role as described in the literature.
  • To describe the faculty positions available for the clinician and provide a roadmap for attaining that position.

The definition of role change or role transition has been described in the literature as any transition from one set of behaviors to another. According to Melesis (2010) role transition involves the need to attain new knowledge, changes in social status and interactions with others that may lead to feeling of instability and uncertainty since self-identity and role change can occurs simultaneously as you move from novice to master in the newly defined role.

Role theory posits that people learn to adapt to the roles given to them by society and the rules that are agreed upon by society for a given role. The roles that individuals have are learned behaviors (Goodling, 2003). Similarly Transition Theory states that people can learn and adapt to changes. Transitions theory notes that change happens over times therefore the experience of transition is fluid.

Suggested References

Anderson, J. K. (2009). The work-role transition of expert clinician to novice academic educator. The Journal of Nursing Education, 48(4), 203–208. doi:10.3928/01484834-20090401-02

Clark, N. J., Alcala-Van Houten, L., & Perea-Ryan, M. (2010). Transitioning From Clinical Practice to Academia. Nurse Educator, 35(3), 105–109. doi:10.1097/NNE.0b013e3181d95069

Goodling, S. M. (2003). Transition from academia to home health practice. Home Health Care Management & Practice, 16(1), 17-24. doi: 10.1177/1084822303260198

Meleis, A. I. (2010). Transitions theory: Middle-Range and situation-Specific theories in nursing research and practice. New York, EUA: Springer publishing company.

Ramsburg, L., & Childress, R. (2012). An initial investigation of the applicability of the 
Dreyfus skill acquisition model to the professional development of nurse educators. Nursing education perspectives, 33(5), 312-316.

Schoening, A. M. (2013). From bedside to classroom: The nurse educator transition model. Nursing education perspectives, 34(3), 167-172.

The transition from the role of nurse clinician to that of faculty and a member of the academic society can result in internal conflict and cognitive dissonance since the expectations as a clinician and the multitude of demands of an academic position. Clarke et al (2010) states that this incongruence can result in role stress which has four causes; ambiguity, incongruity, conflict and overload, which are below.

Four Causes of Role Stress - Ambiguity, Incongruity, Conflict, Overload


Ambiguity occurs when there is a deficiency of clarity surrounding the behaviors and responsibilities associated with the role are not well defined or understood by the parties involved; the clinician, the medical institution or the academic institution.
Ambiguity is a common occurrence because most clinicians have not been socialized into the culture of academe.
     Incongruity is the incompatibility between the different aspects contained in the role. There can be conflict between the skills  and abilities, values and expectations or role obligations.      Role conflict arises when the expectations are perceived to be contradictory or incongruent and can result in irreconcilable demands on the part of the nurse or the institution.      Overload occurs when the demands of the roles or roles overwhelm the new faculty member resulting in difficulty in meeting the obligations of the role in the prescribed time.

Overload can lead to workplace tension, anxiety, and personal conflict that can result in the exhibition of negative behaviors. 

  • Know the expectations of the academic institution
  • Most institutions base retention, promotion and tenure decision on a combination of scholarly activity, teaching ability and service to the academic community.
  • Discuss how each of these components is weighted.
  • Seek a formal mentorship program or obtain a dedicated mentor within the first few weeks of employment and meet with your mentor at regular intervals.
  • Professional development should be an ongoing process that takes responsibilities and expectations of the position into consideration.
  • Establish administrative support through early communication when issues are discovered.
  • Become immersed in academic culture by reading journals on nursing education in addition to clinical journals.

Suggested References

Anibas, M., Brenner, G. H., & Zorn, C. R. (2009). Experiences described by novice 
teaching academic staff in baccalaureate nursing education: A focus on mentoring. Journal of Professional Nursing, 25(4), 211-217.

Clark, C. L. (2013). A mixed-method study on the socialization process in clinical 
nursing faculty. Nursing education perspectives, 34(2), 106-110.

Clark, N. J., Alcala-Van Houten, L., & Perea-Ryan, M. (2010). Transitioning from 
clinical practice to academia: University expectations on the tenure track. Nurse Educator, 35(3), 105-109.doi: 10.1097/NNE.0b013e3181d95069

Duffy, R. (2013). Nurse to educator? Academic roles and the formation of personal 
academic identities. Nurse education today, 33(6), 620-624.

Gazza, E. A. (2009). The experience of being a full-time nursing faculty member in a 
baccalaureate nursing education program. Journal of Professional Nursing, 25(4), 218-226. doi:10.1016/j.profnurs.2009.01.006

McDonald, P. J. (2010). Transitioning from clinical practice to nursing faculty: Lessons 
learned. Journal of Nursing Education, 49(3), 126. doi:10.3928/01484834-20091022-02
Penn, B. K., Wilson, L. D., & Rosseter, R. (2008). Transitioning from nursing practice to 
a teaching role. Online journal of Issues in Nursing, 13(3).

Roberts, S. J., & Glod, C. (2013, April). Faculty roles: Dilemmas for the future of nursing 
education. In Nursing forum (Vol. 48, No. 2, pp. 99-105).doi: 10.1111/nuf.12018

Schaar, G. L., Titzer, J. L., & Beckham, R. (2015). Onboarding New Adjunct Clinical 
Nursing Faculty Using a Quality and Safety Education for Nurses–Based Orientation Model. Journal of Nursing Education, 54(2), 111–115. doi:10.3928/01484834-20150120-02

Weidman, N. A. (2013). The lived experience of the transition of the clinical nurse expert 
to the novice nurse educator. Teaching and Learning in Nursing,8(3), 102-109. doi:10.1016/j.teln.2013.04.006

Ziehm, S., & Fontaine, D. K. (2009). Clinical faculty: tips for joining the ranks. AACN 
advanced critical care
, 20(1), 71-81. doi: 10.1097/NCI.0b013e31819453ab

  • Bednash, G., Breslin, E. T., Kirschling, J. M., & Rosseter, R. J. (2014). PhD or DNP: Planning for Doctoral Nursing Education. Nursing Science Quarterly, 27(4), 296–301. doi:10.1177/0894318414546415  
  • Sonson, S. L. (2013). DNP-prepared APRNs: Leading the magnet?? charge. Nursing Management, 44(7), 49–52. doi:10.1097/01.NUMA.0000431425.39076.81

What Is Tenure?
A guaranteed job contract given to academic professionals that have shown skills over a period of time. It provides security from being laid off without sufficient justification.  Primary responsibilities include: teaching and research, independent program of research, publications,teaching undergrad and/or graduate students, serving as an academic/research advisor of students involvement.

Tenured Positions

  • Tenured Professor
    After all other promotions have been reached
  • Associate Professor
    On-Track to be a Full Professor upon evaluation of requirements needed for promotion. These requirements may vary by University/department.
  • Assistant Professor 
    Entry level tenure-track position for PhD graduates. DNP graduates may also be eligible for entry-level tenure-track positions depending on the University. On-Track to be an Associate Professor upon evaluation of requirements needed for promotion. These requirements may vary by University/department.

Non-tenured Positions

  • Adjunct Faculty
    Non-tenure/part-time/per course. Primary duty is teaching. This includes developing syllabi, coordinating curriculum, facilitating class instruction, evaluating student performance, holding office hours, maintaining course website (blackboard). 
    • Bachelors Degree (Required)
    • Master's Degree or DNP (May be required if teaching at graduate level
    • Nursing Experience (Active RN License
  • Clinical Instructor
    Primary role is supervising students during clinical rotations. Coordinating with clinicians at clinical sites, making student assignments, instructing students on how to perform duties in the clinical site, evaluate students' work.
    • Active RN License
    • 2+ years of clinical experience
    • BSN (MSN or DNP Preferred)
  • Research Faculty
    Sustain a program of research that provides their salary. Publish in peer-reviewed clinical journals, present research findings at conferences, advise students in research activities. Serve on thesis and dissertation committees. Teaching expectations are limited. 
    • Terminal Degree (PhD)

Suggested Resources:

Faculty Roles 

  • Duffy, R. (2013). Nurse to educator? Academic roles and the formation of personal academic identities. Nurse Education Today, 33(6), 620–624. doi:10.1016/j.nedt.2012.07.020
  • Roberts, S. J., & Glod, C. (2013). Faculty roles: Dilemmas for the future of nursing education. Nursing Forum, 48(2), 99–105. doi:10.1111/nuf.12018 


  • Gaugler, J. E. (2004). on the Tenure Track in Gerontology: I Wish I Had Known Then What I Know Now. Educational Gerontology, 30(6), 517–536. doi:10.1080/03601270490445122
  • Singh, M. D. (2015, July). An Exploration of the Pre-Tenure and Tenure Process Experiences of Nursing Faculty. In Sigma Theta Tau International's 26th International Nursing Research Congress. STTI
  • Smeltzer, S. C., Sharts-Hopko, N. C., Cantrell, M. A., Heverly, M. A., Wise, N. J., Jenkinson, A., & Nthenge, S. (2014). Challenges to research productivity of doctoral program nursing faculty. Nursing Outlook, 62(4), 268-274.
  • Sussman, S. M. (2012). Job satisfaction and support for transitions in the nursing academy: A qualitative study of tenured nursing faculty who stay in academia (Doctoral dissertation, Teachers College, Columbia University).


  • Paul, P. A. (2015). Transition from novice adjunct to experienced associate degree nurse educator: A comparative qualitative approach. Teaching and Learning in Nursing, 10(1), 3-11.
  • Nicholes, R. H., & Dyer, J. (2012). Is eligibility for tenure possible for the doctor of nursing practice-prepared faculty?. Journal of Professional Nursing, 28(1), 13-17.
  • Schaar, G. L., Titzer, J. L., & Beckham, R. (2015). Onboarding New Adjunct Clinical Nursing Faculty Using a Quality and Safety Education for Nurses–Based Orientation Model. Journal of Nursing Education, 54(2), 111–115. doi:10.3928/01484834-20150120-02


AACN Career Center
AACN's online resource dedicated to employment opportunities in nursing education.

HigherEd Jobs
Listing of faculty positions (on-site or remote)

Provides nursing education modules for new educators

Graduate Nursing Student Academy Career Network
Job board developed through partnership between AACN and AfterCollege. 

National Council of State Board of Nursing - Nurse Licensure Compact
To determine if you live in a state included in the Nurse Licensure Compact

Professional Organizations to Consider:
It is important to maintain membership in professional associations that are tied to your area of specialization or instruction.

Association of Black Nursing Faculty

National Association of Ethnic Minority Nurse Associations

National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties

Professional Nurse Educators Group

Sigma Theta Tau International The International Society of Nursing