Expert Clinician to Novice Clinical Faculty

By Deanna Hutchings, BScN, MN | Sessional Support Coordinator

Experienced nursing clinicians who choose to become sessional teaching faculty bring a wealth of clinical knowledge and experience to their new roles and a desire to support the next generation of nurses. But what resources and strategies can help them through their early teaching experience as they navigate the new challenges that attend the role of nurse educator?

To learn more about the experience of supporting new Sessional Clinical Faculty in the School of Nursing, we asked new Sessional Faculty members to describe the
resources and strategies they found helpful to navigate their early experiences of teaching in 2017.

And what does the literature say about effective and evidence- based strategies to support new clinical faculty?

To explore the evidence, we conducted a literature search using the terms “support” “novice” “Clinical faculty” dating from 2008-2017. Seventeen articles were reviewed. Mentoring, and the importance of mentoring consistently surfaced as a key theme in the search findings (Blauvelt & Spath, 2008; Cooley , 2013; Grassely
and Lambe , 2015; Slimmer, 2012; Vitale, A, 2010). Intentional mentoring was purported to ease the transition from clinician to nurse educator. This may involve informal mentoring in the form of personalized attention, encouragement and support and development of a positive attitude towards teaching and learning ( Blauvelt &
Spath, 2008) or perhaps a formal and systematized process of intentional mentoring such as that described by Grassely and Lambe (2015), Slimmer (2012) or Cooley (2013).

To understand our own new clinical faculty members’ experience, we hosted a conversation with new Sessional Clinical Faculty by phone and email to learn more about their experience of supportive activity and strategies to underpin their professional development in this early phase of their transition to nurse educator. Here too,
the importance of formal and informal mentor relationships surfaced. All new sessional faculty were assigned mentors. Having the mentors available to respond by phone, email or in person at the time of their questions was identified as helpful and bolstered the new educator’s confidence. The strongest form of mentorship support came in the form of shared planned activities such as co- teaching a class with the mentor and other teachers, and participating in student learning in a Simulation exercise facilitated by the mentor.

Regular contact in scheduled meetings with other educators teaching the same clinical courses also bolstered a sense of confidence and competence for new sessional faculty. Scheduled monthly meetings provided a forum in which to discuss emerging pedagogical issues, share tips and strategies and begins to forge an identity as
an educator and develop a reference group for novice clinical faculty. Though not described in the literature, having foundational reference documents such as syllabi and handbooks and lists of available School and University resources readily available provided both guidance for immediate questions and a sense of security in
the event that further support might be needed. And while the written resources were a powerful adjunct to providing information, it was the presence of a competent and compassionate mentor nearby that truly eased the transition from skilled clinician to a more confident clinical nursing faculty Sessional faculty member.

Thanks to Dominique Duquette RN and Nicholas Fitterer RN, NP for participating in this discussion.


Blauvelt, M.J., Spath, M.L . (2008) Passing the torch: a faculty mentoring program at one school of nursing. Nursing
Education Perspectives (National League for Nursing), 29 (1), 29-33).

Cooley, S. S. (2013). The lived experience of novice nursing faculty in academia. Doctoral Dissertation. Capella University.
Grassley, J, S., Lambe, A. (2015). Easing the transition from clinician to Nurse Educator: An integrative literature review.
Journal of Nursing Education, 54 (7), 361-366.

Slimmer, L. (2012). A Teaching mentorship program to facilitate excellence in teaching and learning. Journal of Professional
Nursing, 28 (3), 182-185.

Vitale, A.T. (2010) Faculty development and mentorship using selected online asynchronous teaching strategies. Journal of
Continuing Education in Nursing, 41(12), 549-556.