A nursing faculty shortage is producing a circular crisis, as students are being turned away from understaffed nursing schools at a time when more nurses are needed in the U.S. healthcare system.
Indeed, more than 56% of the 714 nursing schools that responded to a recent American Association of Colleges of Nursing survey reported 1,236 full-time faculty vacancies for the 2014-15 academic year. The limited pool of candidates with post-graduate degrees and noncompetitive teacher salaries were cited as major barriers to faculty recruitment.
And while 7% of nurse faculty positions nationwide remain vacant, 78,000 applicants to bachelor and advanced-degree nursing programs were turned away last year because there weren't enough faculty available to teach them.
This statistic is especially troubling because the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a demand for 1.1 million new nurses over the next seven years to fill 575,000 newly created positions, as well as a need to replace some 550,000 nurses who will retire by 2022.
The New York-based Jonas Center for Nursing Excellence estimated that each nurse educator position left vacant could affect the care of 3.6 million patients if the number of nurses each instructor could teach is considered along with the number of patients for whom those nurses could provide care.
But the picture is not as bleak as the numbers might make it appear. “We did see this shortage coming,” said Pamela Cipriano, president of the American Nurses Association and a research associate professor at the University of Virginia School of Nursing. “So the good news is that we have been preparing to bring more faculty on board.”
A graduate degree is required to teach nursing and efforts are underway to boost the number of nurses with advanced degrees, said AACN President Eileen Breslin.
“We have targeted individuals in baccalaureate programs to enter into graduate programs sooner rather than later,” said Breslin, dean of the School of Nursing at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.