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The Growing Need for Nurse Educators

Through advancements in preventive care, medical treatment and technology, the American population is living longer. Business Insider notes that the average life expectancy, which was just below 70 years in 1968, had approached age 79 by 2016. As human longevity increases, healthcare capabilities must expand to meet the needs of aging Americans.

Nurses are integral to a successful healthcare model, but the United States is facing a significant shortage. reports that the demand for RNs is likely to grow by 795,000 full-time positions by 2030. Graduating numbers need to keep pace in order to best support the nation’s healthcare needs.

The Nurse Shortage

The aging population will need care. MedPage Today points out that these individuals are expected to live longer with comorbidities and chronic conditions. Additionally, one million nurses are expected to retire by 2030. The nursing shortage is very real.

With the projected need for nurses in the next decade numbering in the hundreds of thousands, barriers to educating qualified applicants must be removed. A lack of nurses can result in high stress, overwork, fatigue and mistakes that could drastically affect patient outcomes.

Nursing Faculty Shortage

One of the largest barriers to training more nurses is a lack of nursing faculty. According to the National League for Nursing, 72% of qualified applicants were rejected from pre-licensure nursing programs in the 2011-2012 academic year. These pre-licensure programs offer a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) for students who have no previous nursing education. With a required six to 10 years of training to become a nurse educator from start to finish, the rejections from 2011-2012 contributed to fewer potential nurse faculty in 2020.

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) indicates that in 2018, 75,029 qualified applicants were refused admission to bachelor’s and graduate nursing programs because American schools lacked the resources to handle them. This does not bode well for the future, considering the lengthy process from initial enrollment in nursing school through higher education to qualify as a nursing faculty candidate. Every student rejected from nursing school is another future faculty member who could eventually train the army of nurses needed to meet the nation’s demand.

Meanwhile, the current cohort of nursing faculty are nearing retirement. The average age for professors, associate professors and assistant professors is greater than 50 years, putting them very close to retirement age. Without a healthy influx of educated and experienced candidates, nursing programs will not be able to keep up with the population’s demand.

Reducing the Nursing Faculty Shortage

A multi-pronged approach is necessary to increase nursing faculty across the country, and the time for action is now. Educators are the key to having enough nurses to replace those retiring and provide for the healthcare needs of the population.

The first step is to financially support the push for nurse educators. For example, the Minority Nurse Faculty Scholars Program from the AACN and the Johnson & Johnson Campaign for Nursing’s Future provides a financial subsidy for graduate students who agree to serve as nursing school educators after they graduate. Financial aid for bachelor and post-graduate degrees in nursing and financial incentives from institutions that are seeking nurse educators will help bolster efforts.

The next step is to encourage all nurses to pursue a BSN degree. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation included the suggestion to complete a BSN within 10 years of graduation in its policy recommendations for nurses with an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN). Not only does it strengthen the skills of practicing nurses, but it also serves as a conduit to graduate education. The AACN affirms that nurses who complete their BSN have a greater chance of pursuing further degrees to eventually fill those faculty positions.

With online education becoming an accepted path to a degree, working nurses can enroll in programs designed to accommodate their schedules. If you have yet to obtain your BSN, the education path to pursue the degree after becoming an RN is short. If you have a BSN under your belt, consider pursuing a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) in Nursing Education. The JoAnne Gay Dishman School of Nursing at Lamar University offers one of the top two MSN programs in the country and can equip you to shape the future of nursing.

Learn more about Lamar University’s online MSN in Nursing Education program.


Business Insider: The Aging Population in the US is Causing Problems for Our Healthcare Costs The States with the Largest Nursing Shortages

MedPage Today: Understanding the Nursing Shortage

National League for Nursing: Faculty Shortage

American Association of Colleges of Nursing: Nursing Faculty Shortage

Charting Nursing’s Future: Expanding America’s Capacity to Educate Nurses


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