Whitney Palmer

Healthcare. Politics. Family.

Faculty Forward Survey Finds High Faculty Engagement, Guides Institutions in Developing New Policies

Published in the October 2012 AAMC Reporter

By Whitney L.J. Howell

The majority of faculty at the nation’s medical schools and teaching hospitals are happy with their jobs, according to the 2011–2012 Faculty Forward Engagement Survey, recently conducted by the AAMC’s Faculty Forward initiative, which helps institutions build capacity for creating effective organizational cultures to attract and retain faculty. But pinning down the issues that are important to faculty and programs that will help them be as effective as possible can be difficult for leadership.

“The goal of the Faculty Forward program is to help AAMC members create and sustain the positive culture that they will need to attract and retain the best talent in academic medicine,” said Shannon Fox, Ph.D., AAMC director of Faculty Forward. “We hope the survey results will guide participating institutions in improving faculty engagement.”

It is critical that institutions help faculty succeed, said Valerie N. Williams, Ph.D., M.P.A., vice provost for academic affairs and faculty development at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. “Without our faculty, who is going to do all the work of the institution?” Williams asked. “Faculty play such a central role in achieving the tripartite mission of teaching, research, and patient care. We need to understand what helps them be as effective and driven as they can be about the work they engage in.”

According to Williams, the survey is an excellent way for institutional leaders to determine what issues are important to faculty. As an ongoing AAMC initiative, Faculty Forward works with medical schools to understand and improve policies, practices, and cultural issues that directly influence faculty engagement and retention. The program also offers a peer discussion forum, allowing leaders from participating institutions to share how they have improved faculty engagement. Two cohorts—one in 2009 and another in 2011—have participated in the program, with a third cohort forming this fall. With results from their engagement survey, several medical schools from the 2009 and 2011 cohorts are launching initiatives to improve faculty engagement on issues such as hiring and retention practices, and leadership communication about things like institutional finances. Regardless of each participating institution’s focus, the goal is the same—an organizational culture that attracts exceptional faculty.

The 2011–2012 survey polled more than 15,000 faculty from 31 departments at 14 medical schools nationwide. Nearly 75 percent of faculty are satisfied overall with their department as a place to work and would choose to work at their medical school again if given the chance to “do it all over.”

Among respondents engaged in clinical practice, 55 percent were very satisfied or satisfied with the ability to provide high-quality care or teamwork between physicians and other clinical staff at their institutions. But those involved in clinical practice were less satisfied with decision making. For example, 47 percent of respondents were satisfied with opportunities for input in management or administrative decisions, and only 39 percent were satisfied with communication they received about the financial status of their practice location.

Respondents indicated the lowest overall satisfaction with communication about medical school governance. Only 42 percent agreed that there is sufficient communication from the dean’s office to faculty, and only half believed the dean’s priorities for the medical school were clear. In addition, faculty recognize that retention is an important issue facing their institutions, with only 45 percent agreeing that their medical school successfully retains high-quality faculty.

Although the findings highlight areas of concern, academic medicine has grappled with similar problems before. Whenever the industry faces a policy shift, such as the Affordable Care Act, the normal routine gets derailed, Williams said. “It’s sort of like renovating your kitchen. You still have to provide a meal for your family every night, with no sink, stove, or lights. Health policy changes can throw everything in an institution into a chaotic state.”

Surprisingly, the survey showed concerns are relatively uniform across all medical schools and teaching hospitals, said Patrick Smith, Ph.D., associate dean for faculty affairs at the University of Mississippi School of Medicine. It is reassuring to know that individual institutions are not alone in their struggles to meet faculty needs and expectations, he added. During upheaval, clear communication between administration and faculty is essential, Smith noted.

In addition to identifying communication patterns, administrators can use the survey results to make clinical care responsibilities less stressful and more rewarding, said Leslie Morrison, M.D., vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center. The industry’s recent shift toward team-based patient care likely will alleviate faculty’s perception that they are overloaded with clinical time. “It’s difficult to provide care in a complex setting like an academic medical center,” Morrison said. “We have a great opportunity with all these changes to have transformation that, I think, all institutions will need to stay nimble and be ready to take on new challenges.”

After the 2009 survey, New Mexico looked to the results to increase faculty engagement. The university’s Academic Affairs Advisory Committee created CHAOS— Contract, Hiring, and Other Stuff—an electronic system that streamlined the hiring process. One of the biggest changes, Morrison said, is a new faculty mentoring program. This initiative will benefit new faculty and will keep existing faculty engaged as a condition of promotion.

Mississippi also is putting the survey results to good use, Smith noted. A task force is at work developing three initiatives and reviewing nearly 500 open-ended faculty comments about promotion and tenure, as well as human resources and benefits. “The task force is working to distill down what will be best for the School of Medicine. We’re trying to be sensitive to developing realistic initiatives that we can accomplish in a timely manner.”

At Oklahoma, department chairs identified challenges after the 2009 survey and are evaluating their progress, Williams said. Initially, faculty were most concerned about promotion and tenure and how their roles fit into their departments. She hopes the new survey data will reveal whether faculty have more clarity on these issues.

Administrators will use 2011–2012 data to plan new initiatives, but Williams cautioned that change will not happen overnight. There are no quick fixes, but the survey data should inform strategies that will produce long-term systemic improvements, she said. “If you have the resources to dive into the data, the Faculty Forward survey is rich with information. You can garner a lot of things that aren’t at the surface level—things that contribute to our capacity as medical schools to do the work that is necessary on behalf of our students and to continue to foster engagement and career satisfaction for our faculty.”

To read the story at its original location: https://www.aamc.org/newsroom/reporter/october2012/308514/facultyforward.html

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October 19, 2012 - Posted by | Education, Healthcare | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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