Evolving Workplace Flexibility for U.S. Medical School Tenure-Track Faculty

Bunton, Sarah A. PhD; Corrice, April M.

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e31820ce51d
Promotion and Tenure

Purpose: The academic workplace has seen dramatic changes in recent decades, including growing faculty workloads, an increasingly demographically diverse faculty population, and changing expectations about workplace climate. Despite these significant changes, a typical medical faculty's career trajectory is often still quite linear and follows decades-old tenure policies. The authors describe the existence of flexible faculty policies related to tenure at U.S. medical schools to understand better the ways in which institutions are responding.

Method: Data primarily reflect responses from faculty affairs leaders at medical schools accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education to a 2008 faculty personnel policies survey. These data are supplemented with results from the same survey fielded in previous years.

Results: The number of medical schools that have lengthened their probationary periods for faculty has increased over time, and, in 2008, nearly half of the institutions offered a probationary period length of eight years or more to faculty. Over three-fourths of the schools in 2008 had a tenure-clock-stopping policy available, and a third had a policy allowing faculty to work less than full-time while remaining on a tenure-eligible track.

Conclusions: Findings suggest that many medical schools have made progress in making policy additions and modifications that acknowledge the changing academic workplace culture by adding flexibility to traditional tenure policies. Despite those efforts, significant opportunities remain for continued adoption of flexible policies so that faculty can achieve productive academic careers while balancing work, life, and family, and institutions can continue to recruit and retain high-quality faculty members.

Dr. Bunton is research director, Organization and Management Studies, Association of American Medical Colleges, Washington, DC.

Ms. Corrice is research analyst, Organization and Management Studies, Association of American Medical Colleges, Washington, DC.

Correspondence should be addressed to Dr. Bunton, Association of American Medical Colleges, 2450 N St. NW, Washington, DC 20037-1127; telephone: (202) 862-6225; e-mail: sbunton@aamc.org.

First published online February 21, 2011

© 2011 Association of American Medical Colleges