Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Valerie Gunter, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Thomas Nowak, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Dana Hysock Witham, Ph.D.


This study explores the journey which took 22 nursing faculty from their initial associate or baccalaureate degrees to faculty positions in academia. The purpose of this study is to allow current nursing faculty to express their stories and to determine the underlying factors that facilitate and inhibit the movement from R.N. to nursing faculty. A review of literature shows that very few studies have been done to address why despite policy changes the nurse faculty shortage continues to exist. It is anticipated in this study that findings may show that those policies did not address the true needs of R.N.s who were attempting to pursue their career in academia. In this qualitative study, 22 nursing faculty from Western Pennsylvania were interviewed. Faculty were chosen randomly from Diploma, Associate Degree and Bachelor Degree programs in order to have a complimentary sample of programs across the state of Pennsylvania. Interview questions derived from the three guiding theoretical perspectives of symbolic interactionism, rational choice theory, and feminist theory were developed, and in-depth interviews were conducted. The theories of rational choice, feminist theory, and symbolic interactionism are being used to address the various concepts that are important in the decision making process of entering academia. Through the understanding of the importance of these concepts we can gain better insight as to why nurses wait until they are older than the average faculty who enter academia and might better initiate policy that will have a better impact on increasing the number of nurses entering academia. The information gained in this study allows us to better understand both the trajectory most women take when moving from clinical nursing to academia as well as what impacts their decision making along the way. This information might be used by policy makers to more fully assess and implement strategies to increase the number of nurse faculty. The biggest finding was how interrelated the three theories were in the study. I knew there would be some overlap as seen in the concept map, yet at times it seemed difficult to differentiate between the theories. This is especially true with Symbolic Interactionism and Feminist Theory when is come to socialization. Then adding Rational Choice Theory to the mix allowed me a better understanding of why these nurses made the decision to enter academia. Demographic data collected reinforced the statistics given in the literature review. The information gained allows us to better understand why nurses enter academia at the average age of 47. This study also gives insight to the need for further investigation into this area.