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William F. Connell School of Nursing

Cognitive dissonance experienced by nurse practitioner faculty


Nurse practitioner (NP) faculty struggle with conflicts of self-identity brought on by unrealistic workloads and discrepancies between requirements and rewards, Clinical Assistant Professor Holly B. Fontenot, Professor Emeritus Joellen W. Hawkins, and a collaborator from Florida Atlantic University found in a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners.

Research shows that intense pressure on nursing faculty to be productive teacher-scholars and active clinicians contributes to feelings of conflict and tension, and in turn, to the overall attrition of younger nursing faculty members. To gain further insight into NP faculty members’ motivations, Fontenot, Hawkins, and their colleague conducted an online survey that asked NP faculty members about their expectations around academic positions and requirements for promotion, tenure, or bonuses; their experiences with cognitive dissonance; and their ideas for coping with it.

The survey garnered a small but revealing sample, and the collaborators described the qualitative data, in particular, as “extremely rich.” Of the 42 quantitative respondents, 88 percent maintain their clinical careers, with the majority practicing eight hours per week. Among the 44 qualitative responses, NPs indicated that while they find satisfaction in teaching and mentoring, they are frustrated with demanding work priorities and feel torn by expectations around pursuing multiple roles—practice, research, teaching, and service. “How many ways can they cut me and still expect me to function in all?” wrote one respondent.

Fontenot, Hawkins, and their collaborator concluded that the respondents showed evidence of cognitive dissonance when reflecting on their requirements versus their rewards, such as the lack of value placed on clinical achievements in tenure evaluations. The researchers recommended that “reviewing expectations, as well as creating a clinical track for faculty who practice, are options that NP program administrators might explore.”