Advancing Professional Development Through a Community of Practice: the New England Network for Faculty Affairs

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Abstract

Introduction:

In an era of competing priorities, funding is increasingly restricted for offices of faculty affairs and development. Opportunities for professional staff to grow and network through attendance at national meetings and to share best practices are limited. We sought to describe a community of practice established to enhance the professional development of faculty affairs professionals and to document its impact.

Methods:

We outlined the process of formation of the New England Network for Faculty Affairs (NENFA), reviewed the pedagogical approaches to professional development, and surveyed members to evaluate the impact of NENFA on their activities, professional network and their institutions.

Results:

After a successful 2011 initial meeting, NENFA created an organizing committee and conducted a needs assessment among potential members. NENFA's charter, mission, goals, and structure were based on survey results. NENFA's regional community of practice grew to 31 institutions and held 10 meetings over 5 years. Meetings have examined a faculty development topic in depth using multiple learning formats to engage participants from academic medical centers and allied professions. Results from a 2015 member survey confirmed the value of NENFA. Multiple members documented changes in practice as a result of participating.

Discussion:

NENFA has been sustained by volunteer leadership, collaboration, and the value that the group has brought to its members. We propose that a “community of practice” offers an effective model for collaborative learning among individuals at different institutions within a competitive health care environment. We recommend that the approach be replicated in other regions.

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