Getting Connected: Exploring Network Connections of an Interprofessional Health Sciences Faculty
Purpose/Hypothesis: All faculty must retain an active scholarly agenda to successfully advance in the higher education paradigm. Each profession may have unique challenges; however, all must achieve optimal performance in the three pillars: teaching, service and scholarship for career advancement. There is evidence that scholarly productivity is great for faculty with a professional network that is one that is open and less densely interconnected (e.g. many network contacts are not connected to each other). The purpose of this study was to describe the network connections between an interprofessional group of faculty. Number of Subjects: This pilot study included 8 new faculty in Nursing, Occupational Therapy, Physician Assistant, Social Work, and Teacher Education, while looking at a previous year long study involving 50 Physical Therapy early career faculty. Materials and Methods: A model of network analysis examination from a previous study was applied to non-PT faculty to better reflect today’s health care environment where interprofessional practice and education are essential for providing the best possible patient care. It has been cited in the literature, that faculty who are knowledgeable about their network contacts and social capital have a greater likelihood of achievement in scholarly productivity and success when in partnership with an interprofessional group. A survey was used to gather data and construct professional networks connection of the early faculty members. Social network analysis was implemented to create visualizations and calculate size, density (connectedness between people), and the self-reported “closeness” with each connection. Density is a measure of interconnectedness between the network members. It is calculated as the proportion of network members who are also connected with each other (0-100%).7 Identifiable data was handled by an independent researcher at another University. Participant names were replaced with a numerical code, while mentor/collaborator names were replaced by alpha coding. Results: The participants included 83% (n=5) females, 33% (n=2) were Black or African American, 33% (n=2) were White or Caucasian. Most were assistant professors (n=5) and had an academic doctorate (n=4). The mean size of the networks was 14.17 contacts (SD=6.77, range 5-27) with a mean density of 30% (SD=11%, range 18%-52%). Whereas, the mean size of the networks for PT faculty was 25.4 contacts (SD=13.4, range 4-62) with a mean density of 40.2% (SD=16.6, range 18.6-100%). (Table has been removed) The results show that the mentor-to-size ratio is similar for both the PT faculty (38.1%) and the non-PT group (41.1%). The closeness rating between the non-PT faculty and their network contacts was higher (5.57) than the PT faculty (4.65). However the density of the PT faculty’s network was greater 40% versus 30%. All faculty had network contacts from a variety of professions different from their own. So, what does this all mean? What would be considered the most effective network? Hence, the importance of the individual participant interviews which occurred next, yielding faculty development insights aligning with the 3 parts of a network (building, leveraging and maintaining). Conclusions: Key implications from this study suggests that “one size, does not fit all” and that strategies for creating effective networks of collaborators should be implemented and utilized as one of the tools used by mentors in the development of new and early career faculty scholarly pursuits. Future studies (i.e. longitudinally with this cohort, expanding number wise with other cohorts and moving from single colleges to University systems), to learn more about networks and faculty career advancement will provide enhanced strategies for institutions of higher education to address the challenges of faculty recruitment, retention and financial solvency. Clinical Relevance: In order to educate outstanding healthcare providers and continue to make advancements in healthcare it is pertinent that higher educational institutions are giving their faculty the best chance at success in scholarly activity. Social network analysis made the network connections visible for the early career faculty to help them pursue an effective network that could also lead to personal career advancement. Learning, understanding and visually seeing one’s network is invaluable as a faculty member progresses from year to year on the track to promotion and tenure. This study continues to explore the best strategies of network connections amongst early healthcare professionals in order to increase scholarly activity and therefore increase the strength and effectiveness of our academic institutions.