A shortage-compounding shortage: That’s exactly what’s happening in the nursing field right now.
The nursing shortage has been an area of great concern over the past few decades. Overworked nurses and a lack of providers impact healthcare quality and patient outcomes. Additionally, even when individuals aspire to enter the nursing field, they’re increasingly unable to because there are not enough nurse educators to teach them.
How Bad Is the Shortage?
The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) has been tracking the nurse educator shortage, bringing a harsh light to its severity. According to its report, 2019-2020 Enrollment and Graduations in Baccalaureate and Graduate Programs in Nursing, in 2019, U.S. nursing schools turned away 80,407 qualified applications from baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs. The reasons cited were insufficient number of faculty, clinical sites, classroom space and clinical preceptors.
Budget constraints were also a significant contributor. However, most nursing schools highlighted faculty shortages as a top reason for being unable to accept all qualified applicants into their programs. Another AACN report, the Special Survey on Vacant Faculty Positions, released in October 2019, supports this.
Out of the 892 nursing schools with baccalaureate and/or graduate programs, a total of 1,637 faculty vacancies were identified, based on a nearly 90% response rate. Schools surveyed relayed the need to create an additional 134 faculty positions to accommodate student demand.
Top Contributing Factors
It is impossible to solve a problem without identifying its root. In the case of the nurse educator shortage, this is important — but the solution is still somewhat elusive. The lack of nurse educators is due, in part, to individuals living longer lives with chronic conditions and thus encumbering the healthcare system as a whole.
It’s also difficult to mitigate the fact that many nurse educators are retiring, leaving a void. Research by Di Fang, PhD, and Karen Kesten, DNP, APRN, CCNS, CNE, CCRN-K, revealed that one-third of the current nursing faculty workforce in baccalaureate and graduate programs are expected to retire by 2025.
Even if nurse educators choose to stay in faculty positions past retirement age, the number of “productive” hours they can teach is limited.
These factors reinforce the immediate need for the nursing education community to foster development in younger, incoming nurse educators. The nursing community needs to embrace any opportunity to further this next generation.
Where Do We Go from Here?
Despite the current circumstances, one positive aspect is that there are avenues that make it easier for individuals to earn the necessary degree to become nurse educators. Online options, such as the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) in Nursing Education online program at Lamar University, offer affordable tuition and multiple start dates. Students can complete the program in as few as 24 months and embark in the field, helping to address the urgency of the nurse educator shortage.
The MSN in Nursing Education is one of the most popular degree programs that nurses around the country seek.
Transforming the Healthcare Landscape
Healthcare is complex and forever changing. However, a career as a nursing educator, offers stability, solid compensation and a part in addressing the nursing shortage. Nurse educators have the power to coach students through training and prepare them to change the healthcare landscape in a way that will not only relieve the overwhelm but also build a healthcare system that can fulfill citizens’ wellness needs.