HealthNovember 29, 2016

Nursing faculty shortage: A real crisis?

The new millennial generation is one of the largest sized in recent years.  More young people than ever are now considering careers in nursing.  So why is there seemingly an acute shortage of academic educators to mentor and teach these fledgling ‘nurses-to-be?’

Budget constraints, aging instructors, and increasing job competition from clinical sites have all contributed to a shortage of faculty at nursing schools across the country. Some are calling this a crisis, as it is affecting nursing schools’ enrollment capacities. Faculty shortages at nursing schools are limiting the number of new nursing students at a time when the need for nurses continues to grow.

To minimize the impact of faculty shortages, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) is leveraging its resources to secure federal funding for faculty development programs, collect data on faculty vacancy rates, identify strategies to address the shortage, and focus media attention on this important issue.

Causes for the shortage

According to AACN’s report on 2014-2015 enrollment and graduations in baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs, U.S. nursing schools had to turn away 68,938 qualified applicants in 2014 due to an insufficient number of faculty, clinical sites, classroom space, clinical preceptors, and budget constraints. Almost two-thirds of the nursing schools that responded to the survey pointed to faculty shortages as a reason for not accepting all qualified applicants into baccalaureate programs.

In a survey released by AACN, a total of 1,236 faculty vacancies were identified in 714 nursing schools with baccalaureate and/or graduate programs across the country. Besides the vacancies, schools cited the need to create an additional 124 faculty positions to accommodate student demand.

The top reasons cited by schools having difficulty finding faculty were insufficient funds to hire new instructors and difficulty in recruiting qualified applicants for open teaching positions due to   increasing competition from clinical nursing jobs. And many nursing faculty members are reaching retirement age and are not being replaced.

Remedying the situation

Many statewide initiatives are underway to address both the shortage of RNs and nurse educators. For example, in January 2014, the University of Wisconsin announced the $3.2 million Nurses for Wisconsin initiative to provide fellowships and loan forgiveness for future nurse faculty who agree to teach in the state after graduation.

The Jonas Center for Nursing Excellence announced that its Jonas Nurse Leaders Scholar Program has expanded nationally and now provides funding and support to 198 doctoral nursing students in 87 schools across the U.S., making it one of the largest programs addressing the nation’s shortage of nursing faculty. AACN has worked with the Jonas Center to facilitate this program’s expansion to all 50 states and is administering the program for the new cohort of scholars that includes both PhD and DNP students.

The Nurse Faculty Query (NuFAQs) is a web-based tool that helps users explore the workload, job characteristics, and attitudes toward work-life among full-time nurse faculty. NuFAQs reports on responses to the National Survey of Nurse Faculty conducted by the Center for State Health Policy at Rutgers University from a nationally representative sample of all full-time faculty members teaching in nursing schools that offer at least one degree program. 

The shortage of nursing faculty remains a significant obstacle to expanding nursing programs. Strengthening nursing programs must be made a public policy priority in order to remedy the workforce shortfall that affects the entire healthcare system.

In addition, adopting a concept-based curriculum is by far the best way to ensure the next generation of nurses is not only adequately trained and prepared for real-life patient scenarios, but that they are equipped to help train future nurses, as well.

Explore related topics
Lippincott Nursing Education
Preparing today’s students to become tomorrow’s nurses.