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The nursing faculty shortage problem hasn’t gone away

BY: Eileen Williamson, MSN, RN on May 1, 2019

The current nursing faculty shortage is one of the most pressing issues facing our profession.

As the nursing workforce continues to age and more nurses retire, healthcare facilities are dealing with more staffing shortages, increased expenses for overtime and per diem staff, high vacancy and turnover rates, employee dissatisfaction, burnout and more.nursing faculty shortage

And things are even worse in academia. The current nursing faculty shortage is leading to qualified nursing school applicants being turned away, class sizes increasing, smaller graduating classes and fewer nurses out in the marketplace for recruiters to hire.

Suffice it to say, a faculty shortage makes the overall nursing shortage worse.

And the numbers are disturbing.

“U.S. nursing schools turned away 75,029 qualified applicants from baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs in 2018 due to insufficient number of faculty, clinical sites, classroom space, clinical preceptors and budget constraints,” said the American Association of Colleges of Nursing’s report, “2018-2019 Enrollment and Graduations in Baccalaureate and Graduate Programs in Nursing”. “Most nursing schools responding to the survey pointed to faculty shortages as a reason for not accepting all qualified applicants into baccalaureate programs.”

According to a 2018 report by CNN, there is an acute nursing shortage in the U.S., but schools are turning away thousands of qualified applicants as they struggle to expand class size and hire more teachers for nursing programs.

It’s hard to imagine that many young and second-career prospective students looking for admission to nursing programs are being turned away simply because there is no one to teach them.

Candidates cannot understand why they are not getting accepted into any nursing program while at the very same time they hear nursing is in the midst of a national nursing shortage.

Nursing faculty shortage problem is not new

None of this is news to you and none of it is new.

The faculty shortage didn’t just start. The signposts have been clear to nursing leaders and HR and recruitment specialists for a number of years.

Along with aging and retirement, there were other contributing and causative factors that included:

  • Lower, non-competitive salaries for faculty
  • Cost of advanced degree education
  • Faculty schedules and workloads
  • New and emerging career paths for nurses in general

Many of us have heard and read about these issues and discussed them at meetings and seminars.

You recognized the problem clearly and you did what nursing always does. You took action and worked together and showed there is strength in numbers when it comes to taking on a challenge.

You didn’t just stand by wringing your hands. You took the necessary steps to solve some of the biggest and most obvious problems and answer some of the most pressing questions and concerns around the faculty shortage issue.

The nursing literature is full of information on the work you did, including:

  • Forming partnerships between schools of nursing and healthcare facilities
  • Designing innovative programs to fill in for shortages in teaching and clinical preceptorships
  • Collaborating with recruiters from schools of nursing and hospitals to provide innovative curricula, flexible scheduling and additional teaching opportunities for faculty and learning opportunities for students

The hard truth about shortages

Despite all the work and efforts put forth, the problem now is reaching crisis proportions.

The stakeholders currently involved are faculty from schools of nursing, healthcare and nursing leadership, and professional nursing organization leaders. They see the most recent statistics on the faculty shortage as worrisome at least and critical at worst. They know they need to work together harder than ever.

In a recent article, Walden University Associate Instructor Katie Notch agreed, saying all stakeholders must unite to address the problem.

“Faculty shortages at nursing schools across the country are limiting student capacity at a time when the need for professional registered nurses continues to grow,” said the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, an important stakeholder in the faculty shortage issue.

Because of the domino effect of a nursing faculty shortage, nursing programs are suffering in many ways, as are prospective nursing students, hospitals, other healthcare facilities and ultimately, our patients.

There’s still much we can do

What can we all do to help address the problem? Think outside the box and ask questions of one another.

What if all nursing educators didn’t need to be clinicians first, or if faculty salaries were commensurate with nurse salaries in hospitals? What if everyone brainstormed with their colleagues and came up with a new group think that might work?

Write, talk and share ideas. Use social media to get your ideas out to others. Speak with new nurses about teaching as a career path. Set up seminars and meetings to brainstorm new faculty models.

We need nurses and teachers to teach them. There’s still much we can do.

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Eileen Williamson, MSN, RN

Eileen Williamson, MSN, RN, is a former senior vice president and chief nurse executive who led nursing programs and initiatives. She continues to write and act as a consultant for Nurse.com. Before joining the company in 1998, Williamson was employed by North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System in New York, where she held a number of leadership positions in nursing and hospital administration, including chief nurse at two of the system’s member hospitals. She holds a BSN and an MSN in administration, and is a graduate fellow of the Johnson & Johnson University of Pennsylvania Wharton School Nurse Executives program. She also is a board member and past president of the New Jersey League for Nursing, a constituent league of the National League for Nursing.