The United States is in need of qualified, educated nurses now more than ever. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, American nursing schools aren’t hiring an adequate amount of nursing faculty members. The lack of active nursing instructors has made getting an education a harder opportunity to come by for aspiring nurses. Nursing faculty members are aging and retiring, medical school budgets are tightening, and the job competition across the medical profession is increasing. All of these factors have led to somewhat of a crisis during a time when professional registered nurses are very high in demand.
Why Is There A Shortage of Nursing Instructors?
In a recent report, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing revealed that over 64,000 fully qualified applicants were turned away from nursing school programs due to a shortage of nursing instructors. The amount of faculty is scarce due to budgetary restrictions for nursing schools. Financial restrictions have made it very difficult for nursing colleges to be able to afford the qualified instructional staff they are expected to offer incoming baccalaureate and graduate students.
In addition to the faculty shortage, nursing schools aren’t accepting thousands of applicants for such reasons as limited classroom space and a lack of specialized clinical sites. Medical institutions currently employ an insufficient number of individuals qualified to instruct at a doctorate level, the specific clinical specializations in demand by many nursing applicants. The overall issue is somewhat of a “Catch-22” in that there aren’t enough qualified instructors to meet the demand of incoming students, while the current circumstances have made it nearly impossible to get accepted into a nursing college and become professionally qualified.
The following factors are largely responsible for the growing shortage of nursing instructors:
- The average age of nursing school faculty members is rising: On average, nursing instructors are between 50 and 65 years of age. This has resulted in a higher turnover for nursing instructors and shorter teaching careers due to the amount of energy and productivity required.
- Many instructor retirements are expected to occur over the next 10 years: Most nursing instructors retire around 62 years old. The older age of faculty members increases the likelihood of them retiring in the near future, leaving nursing students without the qualified, experienced instructors they need.
- Public nursing school instructors aren’t getting the pay they deserve: Those qualified to teach in nursing are becoming discouraged by the lower salary offered by nursing schools. More instructors are leaving nursing schools or teaching altogether to accept more lucrative job positions as nurse practitioners in clinical and private-sector settings.
- Too many applicants are being turned away by nursing educator programs: Due to the aforementioned shortage of overall educational resources, there are not enough applicants being accepted into master’s or doctoral nursing programs. A lower admission rate leads to a lower graduation rate, ultimately resulting in a shortage of qualified nursing educators.
What Is Being Done to Solve the Shortage?
Across America, many states are organizing initiatives to put an end to the nursing shortage. Certain universities are offering potential nurses incentives, such as student loan forgiveness and guaranteed fellowships, if they agree to teach in the state where the university resides after graduation. Many nursing students seeking doctoral certification are being offered educational funding and tuition support from national scholar programs.
Through the American Association of Colleges of Nursing’s expansion of the Nursing Central Application Service, NursingCAS, more vacancies in nursing schools throughout the country are being filled across a variety of programs. The expansion of this service has already increased the number of graduates in both registered nursing and advanced practice registered nursing programs.
In addition to finding external sources for more educational funding to alleviate their budgetary restrictions, nursing schools around the United States are designing smarter strategies for their use of federal funding. Since there is currently a higher demand and growth expectancy for primary care and advanced practice nurses, schools are addressing the shortage issue by supporting more students in higher nursing degree programs.
With smarter systematic operation and budget strategies, nursing schools can put an end to the crisis. Through the increased dedication and perseverance of nursing students and a continued emphasis on the importance of quality nursing education, more nursing students and instructors will be able to receive the qualifications they seek and the careers they seek.