Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

Pharmacy Practice Department Chairs' Perspectives on Part-Time Faculty Members

Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

Pharmacy Practice Department Chairs' Perspectives on Part-Time Faculty Members

Article excerpt


American Academic reported in March 2010 that "... almost three-quarters of the people employed today to teach undergraduate courses in the nation's colleges and universities are not full-time permanent professors, but rather are instructors employed on a limited-term contract to teach anything from one course to a full course load." (1) The use of part-time faculty members in higher education has increased dramatically across all disciplines. Part-time and adjunct faculty members now represent almost 50% of faculty members teaching undergraduate courses in US colleges and universities, with this number increasing to 70% in community colleges. (1) Whether health professions education is experiencing the same phenomenon is unclear. Studies and commentaries published in the medical education literature have described attitudes of academic physicians and chairs toward part-time work (2) and the number of part-time faculty members in academic surgery departments, and have called for a reexamination of part-time careers in academic medicine. (4) Part-time faculty positions in medical education appear to be driven largely by individual faculty members' needs and desires rather than strategic planning by the department. Women faculty members who choose part-time work tend to do so for family and childcare reasons, while male faculty members who choose part-time work tend to do so later in their careers and for both personal and professional reasons. (4) Given the increase in the number of female faculty members in medical education, there is an expectation that the number of part-time faculty members in medicine will increase in the future.

Pharmacy colleges and schools have traditionally been comprised of full-time faculty members. In academic year 1998-1999, 11% of all pharmacy faculty members were part-time. (5) In 2010-2011, that percentage decreased slightly to 9%.6 The numbers suggest that pharmacy education is not yet mirroring the national trend of universities to hire more part-time faculty members. However, given the expansion in the number of colleges and schools of pharmacy nationwide, (7) the documented shortage of pharmacy faculty members, (8) and economic pressures, pharmacy colleges and schools may soon have to employee more part-time faculty members as has happened in other non-health professions disciplines.

The pharmacy literature includes descriptions of situations where part-time faculty members job share. (9) There appears to be interest in part-time faculty positions, and like medical education, this interest is largely driven by the individual needs of the faculty members.

Given national trends and the interest of faculty members in reducing their full-time commitment in some health professions disciplines, we determined that there was a need to understand the nature of part-time faculty positions and the impact of part-time employment on the individual faculty member and the department. In pharmacy education, pharmacy practice is typically the largest department, and therefore our study focused on that department. The objective of this study was to describe the benefits and consequences of part-time faculty members in departments of pharmacy practice from the department chair's perspective.


Qualitative methods were used in this study as the research focused on identifying the perceived benefits and consequences of having part-time faculty members rather than on determining why individuals or departments chose to hire part-time faculty members or switch full-time faculty members to part-time. (10) Personal interviews were the data collection method. A stratified purposive sample of 12 chairs of pharmacy practice departments from US colleges and schools of pharmacy was selected from the total population of 102 department chairs. The sample represented public and private universities and a wide range of geographic areas (Southeast, Midwest, West Coast, and Northeast). …

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