Faculty Vitality in Osteopathic Medical Schools: A Pilot Study

Adrienne Z. Ables, PharmD, MS; Liang Shan, PhD; and India L. Broyles, EdD
Notes and Affiliations
Notes and Affiliations

Received: November 27, 2017

Accepted: December 21, 2017

Published: May 1, 2018

J Osteopath Med; 118(5): 321-330

Context: Faculty vitality is defined as the synergy between high levels of satisfaction, productivity, and engagement that enables faculty members to maximize their professional success and achieve goals in concert with institutional goals. Many studies have examined faculty development efforts with regard to satisfaction, retention, or vitality, but, to the authors’ knowledge, they have all been conducted in allopathic medical schools and academic health centers.

Objectives: To examine faculty vitality in osteopathic medical schools and address contributors to productivity, engagement, and career satisfaction.

Methods: This multi-institutional exploratory survey-based study included faculty members from 4 osteopathic medical schools. Surveys with items related to productivity, engagement, career satisfaction, primary department climate and leadership, professional development, and career and life management were sent to faculty members at the 4 participating schools. Most item responses were ranked on Likert-type scales, ranging from 1 (low) to 5 (high). Open-ended questions that explored the participants’ experience at their college, factors outside the institution that may affect vitality, and perceived faculty development needs were included at the end of the survey. The overall vitality index was calculated by taking the average of the 3 vitality indicator scores (ie, productivity, engagement, and career satisfaction).

Results: Of 236 potential participants, 105 returned the survey for analysis. The mean overall faculty vitality index was 3.2 (range, 1-5). Regarding the 3 contributors to faculty vitality, the mean productivity score was 2.3; professional engagement, 3.5; and career satisfaction, 3.7. Primary department climate and leadership was a significant predictor of faculty vitality (P=.001). The influence of individual vitality factors did not differ between basic science and clinical faculty members. Open-ended questions generated the following themes related to faculty vitality: leadership support, organizational climate, collegiality and value, workload, research funding climate, and family/home life. Participants listed a variety of faculty development needs in the areas of teaching, research, leadership, and professional development.

Conclusions: The results of this study suggest that career satisfaction is a significant contributor to vitality in osteopathic medical school faculty members. Additionally, primary department climate and leadership is a significant predictor of faculty vitality. Responses to the open-ended questions further elucidated extrinsic factors that positively and negatively affect vitality, including family and home life and dwindling funding from national medical research agencies. Faculty development efforts should be directed toward enhancing contributors to vitality.

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