Open Journal of Nursing, 2011, 1, 10-13 OJN
doi:10.4236/ojn.2011.11002 Published Online June 2011 (
Published Online June 2011 in SciRes.
The dichotomy that faces nursing tutorial staff
Andrea M. Corbett
Western Institute of Technology at Taranaki, School of Nursing, New Plymouth, New Zealand.
Received 27 May 2011; revised 18 June 2011; accepted 27 June 2011.
There is a requirement for tutorial staff teaching on a
degree programme to be engaged in research activity
on a continuing basis. This is often in conflict with
the demands that tutors in the Bachelor of Nursing
programme are required to have academic ability
and clinical skills whilst at the same time, engage in
meaningful research activity. This does not occur. A
study of the literature finds a commonality of this
dichotomy throughout the world. A question is raised
as to the impact of the increasing age of the nursing
workforce; does this have an impact on the develop-
ment of a research culture? It is suggested that the
joint project approach adopted by the WITT (West-
ern Institute of Technology at Taranaki) School of
Nursing will assist in overcoming some of the identi-
fied issues and begin the development of a research
culture within the School that will be ongoing.
Keywords: Nursing Education; Research ; Nursing Tuto r;
Bachelor of Nursing; Research Activity
The New Zealand Education Act, 1989, requires staff
engaged in teaching on a degree programme to be en-
gaged in research activity that is verifiable and subject
related. There are allowances made for a progression in
the development of a research culture from:
Staff not engaged in research, but engaged in re-
search-informed study and qualifications upgrading,
therefore being able to offer teaching that is in-formed
by recent research and inspired by research knowledge;
Staff conducting research as a major component of
study towards a higher degree;
Staff engaged in qualification independent research.
The (New Zealand) Education Act 1989 (3) states:
The Authority shall not consent to the granting of an
award that is described as a degree unless it is satisfied
that the award recogn ises the comp letition o f a course of
advanced learning that
1) Is taught mainly by people engaged in research;
2) Emphasises the general principles and basic know-
ledge as the basis for self-directed work and learning.
It is pertinent to note that the New Zealand Qualifica-
tions Authority (NZQA) does not regard activity mainly
concerned with keeping abreast of new developments in
subjects as “research”. It is assumed by them that pro-
viders will as a matter of course en-sure that all teachers
of degree courses have sufficient time to keep abreast of
new developments both in their subject areas and in
methods of teaching and assessment.
The NZQA “Approval and Accreditation of Courses
Leading to Degrees and Related Qualifications 2010
Version 4, August 2010 states:
8. Research: The adequacy of provision of research
facilities and support of staff involved in research, the
levels of research activity of staff involved in the course
and of ways by which the research teaching links are
made in the curriculum.
Staffs conduct research within their area of experience
which advances knowledge and understanding and sup-
ports their function as teachers.
The quality and quantity of staff research outputs are
monitored and the collective output is con s istent with th e
development and maintenance of an on-going research
culture in support of the course.
Organisational systems and facilities provide appro-
priate support to staff involved in research, including
access to an appropriate ethics committee.
This tertiary institute’s Quality Management Systems
(QMS) state that “research is also recognised as an inte-
gral component for academic staff development, in par-
ticular staff teaching on degree level programmes.”
In examining the requirement for persons employed in
nursing degree programmes to be engaged in research
activity along with the requirement that the individual is
also proficient in academic and clinical expertise raises a
number of issues. Not the least of these is the belief that
research and teaching are linked to the extent that pro-
ductive researchers are good teachers. It is stated by
A. M. Corbett / Open Journal of Nursing 1 (2011) 10-13
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. OJN
Felder (2010) that there is no logical reason to expect
productivity in research and effectiveness in teaching to
be closely related as they have different goals and re-
quire different skills and personal attributes [1].
According to Felder “excellent researchers must be
observant, objective, skilled at drawing inferences, and
tolerant of ambiguity.” Excellent teachers on the other
hand are skilled at “communication, familiar with the
promotion and establishment of conditions that promote
learning, approachable and empathetic.” [1] There is
also the finding that there is no significant correlation
between research productivity and teaching effectiveness
are provided. The formatter will need to create these
components, incorporating the applicable criteria that
The WITT School of Nursing has a staff of 6 persons
employed as tutors, a Programme Director and a Head of
School. All these persons hold a Masters Degree and one
has a doctoral degree. However when an examination is
made of the nature of the Masters degrees held by staff
only three are considered to have a major component of
research activity contained in them for the award to be
made. This is not to say the degree is not worthy by be-
ing one comprised of 800 level papers, simply that the
expectation that because an individual holds a Masters
degree they understand and can participate in research
activity is erroneous. There would be no dispute that the
individual staff members are, or have been, engaged in
scholarly activity, however it is also a reality that in fact
some of the tutorial staff have no skills or ability to un-
dertake research at even a basic level without guidance
and assistance. Some universities and larger institutes of
technology now require all staff upgrading or studying
towards higher qualifications to have a research methods
paper as one of their papers [2]. This is not currently
being considered by this institution. As all the staff of
this School of Nursing would be categorized as middle
aged, the issue of motivation to want to progress higher
in qualifications level is an issue that cannot be over-
2.1. Age
Reference to the aging of the New Zealand nursing
workforce in line with global trends is referred to in the
Annual Report of the Nursing Council of New Zealand
with 53% of Registered Nurses actually practicing and
issued an Annual Practicing Certificate are over the age
of 45 years [3]. If an examination of the practice area
related to nursing education is undertaken the figures of
those Registered Nurses over the age of 45 years is actu-
ally quite frightening with 63% of the nursing tutor
workforce over that age [4].
2.2. Time
A major consideration for a lack of research activity
referred to in all published articles, is time. Because the
teaching load is quite heavy and continuous in all terti-
ary institutions, staff do not get the time to develop add i-
tional skills which include research activity. In fact one
is led to believe that confidence in the abilities of these
staff to undertake any level of research is seriously lack-
ing. In a review of the literature summarised by Fielder
& Malcolm (2005) it was stated that there was a com-
mon agreement across all sectors of academia that time
pressures were a major factor when staff engaged in
postgraduate study [5]. They identified time release from
teaching duties was important for engagement in re-
search. This is also supported in a discussion the devel-
opment of a research culture at the University of Tech-
nology in Jamaica, detailed how reduction in the teach-
ing load was recognised as essen tial for staff engaged in
research [6]. It is important to acknowledge that the
WITT School of Nursing staff members made the time
to upgrade their degree level qualifications to Masters
degree. Where the “time” consideration is often used as
the reason these same staff members do not engage in
post-Masters scholarly/research activity currently, what
is lacking is the will to so engage.
With time constraints and lack of exp ertise and know-
ledge there comes a lack of motivation on the part of
staff members and the development of raised anxiety
levels. This is not assisted by the lack of institutional
support for professional development in this area. It is
stated that perceptions of value were associated strongly
with the support and time release to undertake research
activity given by an institution employing the staff
member [5]. With the current drive in the New Zealand
tertiary sector, driven by Government and implemented
by direction of the Tertiary Education Commission
(TEC), it would take a bold employer to reduce the
staff/student ratio to allow this to happen.
2.3. Position Demands
An examination in a study on the interrelationship be-
tween time and the demands of the position occupied
found that the time teaching, preparing for teaching, and
engaging in research activity had all extended the de-
mands on the tutor than was evident in the past [7].
Coupled with this were the tangible commodities of sal-
ary, staffing, working conditions, and the resources
available to them to accomplish their work which all
affected how appreciated and supported by the School
and the institution they felt. Over and above resources
they indicated that feeling respected by those with whom
A. M. Corbett / Open Journal of Nursing 1 (2011) 10-13
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they work was also important. It is also pertinent to this
discu ssion to be awar e that in th e Annu al Work load Pla n
developed jointly with the staff member and the WITT
Head of the Nursing School, time is allocated from the
total student class contact hours for research activity.
The fact it does not occur is often stated to be because
there is no “time” for the staff member to fit it in with
their academic and clinical teaching and supervision
duties. That is, the staff member does not perceive that
they have indeed been allocated any time that is man-
2.4. Stress
In considering the raised stress levels many staffs state
they experience the factors involved in this are at least of
two considerations. There is the stress associated with
obtaining pos t gradu ate qu alifications wh ilst maintain ing
academic and clinical excellence, along with running a
home and family responsibilities many have [8]. This of
course is exacerbated with the age of the teacher – the
older the nurse gets the more likely they are to have
family, home and other commitments that take priority
in planning their lives. However in this report we are
examining the factors that lead those tutors with post
graduate qualificatio ns (i.e. Masters degrees) to speak of
stress in undertaking research activity. There is a stress
associated with the dichotomy of the requirements of
teaching and research activity. It was Ackerlind (1999)
who stated that academics are highly motivated and they
possess a driving force to engage with all academic ac-
tivities to maintain professionalism [9]. Do these same
academics not see the importance of research activity as
part of this professionalism? Ackerlind does not think so
and the author of this commentary would agree.
In examining the issue of staff undertaking research ac-
tivity in conjunction with the academic and clinical re-
quirements of their position we need to start with the fact
that whilst espoused in the Institute’s QMS there is a low
cultural environment in the institution associated with
research. The nature of research is appreciated and re-
search outputs are carefully recorded and published in
the Annual Report of the institution with pride. Whilst
these activities may indeed add to the stature of the in-
stitution it is questionable whether the contributions of
those engaged in research are significantly valued by the
institution. Whilst the Edu cation Act requires it, an audit
by the NCNZ or ITPQ would find the School of Nursing
degree programme to be seriously wanting in staff ac-
tively engaged in research activity.
In examining the issue it was first acknowledged that
most of the staff that held Masters degrees qualifications
had obtained their degrees by ob taining a progression of
papers, one of which may have been a dissertation;
however they had not actually engaged in research activ-
ity in any meaningful depth. In an endeavour to improve
this knowledge gap th e Head of Sch ool and the Resear ch
Co-coordinator developed a plan for a research study
that would involve all staff members taking a role and
contributing to a single study. The hope was that, with
guidance, these staff members’ contribution would add
up to a complete whole and the output for the year
would be a study worthy of consideration in the nursing
and health milieu. This con cep t was believ ed to be a way
forward in building up the motivatio n for research activ-
ity among the staff. This activity is progressing.
From a study of the available and pertinent literature,
and with personal discussions with Val Keating, Princi-
pal lecturer in Nursing at the Sheffield Hallam Univer-
sity, it would appear that the dichotomy and demands of
academic and clinical excellence coupled with the re-
quirement to undertake research activity are almost un-
solvable. The nursing tutorial work force reflects interna-
tional trends by being an aging work-force. This makes
the integration of research activity into their daily work
role more difficult. We would argue though that the di-
chotomy is not a problem but a challenge that faces us. It
would appear that there needs to be more emphasis
placed on enhancing re-sources and providing research
mentorship to champion research activity within the In-
stitution and the School of Nursing. The current joint
study project as outlined may well go a long way to
meeting some of these goals. It may offer other Schools
of Nursing a way forward.
[1] Felder, R.M. (2010) The link between research and
teaching. How to strengthen each without weakening the
other. Chemical Engineering Education, 44, 213-214.
[2] New Zealand Ministry of Education. (2002) Report of
the performance-based research fund working group. In-
vesting in Excellence, Wellington.
[3] Nursing Council of New Zealand, (2010a) Annual Re-
port to year ended 31 March, 2010. Wellington.
[4] Nursing Council of New Zealand. (2010b) The New
Zealand Nursing Workforce. Wellington
[5] Fielder, K. and Malcolm, P. (2005) Aligning academic
activities: Implications for teaching and research in a
New Zealand Institute of Technology. Systemic practice
and action research, 18, 275-301.
[6] Onyefulu, C.C. and Ogunrinade, A.F. (2005) Kick start-
ing research in newly emergent universities: Why faculty
do not apply for research development ‘seed’ funding at
the University of Technology Jamaica. Journal of Re-
A. M. Corbett / Open Journal of Nursing 1 (2011) 10-13
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. OJN
sear ch Administra tion, 36, 56-65.
[7] Wimsatt, L., Trice, A. and Langley, D. (2009) Faculty
perspectives on academic work and administrative
bur-den: Implications for the design of effective support
ser-vices. Journal of Research Administration, 40, 71-88
[8] May, D. (1997) Planning time in working for a doctorate.
In: Graves, N. and Varma, V. Eds., Working for a doctor-
ate. Routledge, London.
[9] Ackerlind, G.S. (1999) Growing and developing as an
academic: What does it mean? Herdsa 1999 Conference,
Melbourne, 12-15 July 1999.