Validating PA Educators' Workload Responsibilities

A shudder ran through Dr. Jensen’s body as she walked to the Dean’s office for their third meeting regarding the faculty workload in PA education. Their previous encounters hadn’t gone well due to their different perspectives; the Dean adamantly believed each program at the college should have an equal amount of workload applied, regardless of their differences. As they sat together, the Dean told Dr. Jensen, “I see no reason your faculty cannot each teach 12 credit hours per semester. Your clinical coordinator doesn’t have any teaching credits; she only coordinates rotations and does site visits. That doesn’t meet the college’s guidelines for teaching.” Before Dr. Jensen could respond, the Dean continued, “Besides, I read your ARC-PA standards. Nowhere does it say the workload needs to be different for PA education.”


Validating PA Educators' Workload Responsibilities

PA programs are often housed in disparate divisions and colleges, leading to misunderstandings and differences in perspectives. As PA educators, it’s not uncommon to feel like a square peg being fitted into a round hole; perhaps it’s easy to see yourself in the above example. It can be a challenge to effectively communicate the sufficiency of PA faculty with your Dean or Provost, especially if your institution is not adequately supporting you, so let’s look at a few ways to validate PA educators’ workload responsibilities.


Use the ARC-PA Standard A1.03

When it comes to showing Deans or Provosts your PA faculty is working sufficiently and effectively to the degree the institution requires, Massey & Martin, LLC recommends using the ARC-PA Standard A1.03 to provide evidence of the sufficiency of PA faculty.



Develop guidelines

Begin by developing guidelines that meet the model often found in PA education. For instance, courses are often taught collaboratively or with guest lecturers. Lab sections need to be small, keeping the student-faculty ratio around 8:1. As you conceptualize the workload for your program, consider the following basic guidelines Massey & Martin, LLC has developed from years of experience:


  • Instructor to revise an existing course in a substantial manner: two (2) credit hour equivalents per course

  • Didactic Lecturing in Solo-Instructor Course: Each one (1) credit hour = one (1) hour equivalent

  • Didactic Lecturing in Team-Taught Course: Each fifteen (15) hours of formal campus-based didactic lecturing = one (1) hour equivalent

  • Seminar: Each fifteen (15) hours of formal, campus-based seminar time = one (1) hour equivalent

  • Laboratory Skills Instruction: Each thirty (30) hours of formal, on-campus laboratory teaching = one (1) hour equivalent

  • Solo Coordination of Team-Taught Course: For didactic class sizes up to 30 students = 0.5 hour equivalent per one (1) credit. Example: A three (3) credit hour Clinical Medicine course would result in 1.5 credit hour equivalents for the coordinator who does not teach content in the course. This is justified by administratively managing the course including test construction, etc.

  • Experiential Education: Each six (6) full-time equivalent experiential education student weeks = two (2) hour equivalents


This can grant the clinical director or coordinator credit load for managing the clinical year in terms of site visitation and evaluation. It does not meet the traditional educational model, but it does recognize that it is equally essential to evaluate the learning taking place and ensure the quality of clinical education as it is to teach a class.



Award faculty credit hours

Another approach to validate workload responsibilities for PA educators involves awarding faculty credit hour teaching load for special committees and educational projects that support programmatic improvement and maintenance. Consider the following equivalents:


  • New course development: three (3) hour equivalent per course

  • Instructor to revise an existing course in a substantial manner: two (2) credit hour equivalents per course

  • Experiential education fieldwork: one (1) hour equivalent for each ten (10) formal site visits

  • Major service/committee/accreditation work: up to a maximum of six (6) hour equivalents. Each committee will be granted one (1) hour equivalent per semester

  • Special projects related to accreditation: up to a maximum of three (3) hours equivalent per semester

  • Grant Project Director/Investigator: release time in accordance with institutional policy

  • First-year practice start-up time for new faculty: eight (8) hour equivalents



Organize workload according to administrative responsibilities

Workload credits can also be organized according to administrative responsibilities, being packaged based on the level of responsibility. Often, administrators are able to understand how credit load can be compressed into a block of deliverables; this is particularly effective when the PA program director is being asked to teach a heavy load and doesn’t receive credit for the leadership and accreditation responsibilities.


  • PA program director: 12-16 hour equivalents annually

  • Associate director: 6-9 hour equivalents annually

  • Clinical education coordinator: 12-16 hour equivalents annually

  • Coordination of research and assessment: 6-9 hour equivalents annually

  • PA programs have several ways to use legitimate data sources to validate workload responsibilities, including the concept of the sufficiency of faculty. Additionally, an evidence-based approach involving PA educational workload can provide a model for PA program directors to use to engage in rewarding and successful conversations with your Dean or Provost. Indeed, you will likely face conversations like the initial example at the beginning of this post, but if you employ these tactics, you will be able to successfully navigate the conversation.

  • Capstone/thesis coordination: six (6) hour equivalents annually

  • OSCE coordination: six (6) hour equivalents annually


Conclusion

PA programs have several ways to use legitimate data sources to validate workload responsibilities, including the concept of the sufficiency of faculty. Additionally, an evidence-based approach involving PA educational workload can provide a model for PA program directors to use to engage in rewarding and successful conversations with your Dean or Provost. Indeed, you will likely face conversations like the initial example at the beginning of this post, but if you employ these tactics, you will be able to successfully navigate the conversation.

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