An ongoing lack of qualified nursing faculty is impacting the nation’s ongoing nursing shortage as nursing schools across the country struggle with expanding fast enough to accommodate student demand.

According to a survey conducted by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) on Enrollment and Graduations in Baccalaureate and Graduate Programs in Nursing, U.S. nursing schools turned away 68,938 qualified applicants from baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs in 2014 due to an insufficient number of faculty, clinical sites, classroom space, clinical preceptors, and budget constraints.

Freida Outlaw, PhD, RN, FAAN, an adjunct professor in the department of human and organizational development at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, says the causes of the faculty shortage can be traced to several factors, including the advancing age of current faculty and compensation not keeping pace with the business sector.

“Many of the Baby Boomer generation are beginning to reach retirement age,” says Outlaw. “And those who are newer to the nursing profession are choosing to work in clinical nursing jobs because the pay is better.”

According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, the average salary of a nurse practitioner is $91,310. By contrast, the AACN reported in 2014 that a master’s-prepared faculty member earns an annual wage of $73,633.

In order to successfully recruit nurse faculty, Outlaw says nursing schools need to make salaries more comparable and consider new models of teaching.

“The Millennial generation is highly entrepreneurial and has different work expectations,” says Outlaw. “I think part of the solution is to offer potential nursing faculty flexibility, autonomy, and more of a clinician/educator role.”

For the past three years, Lorain County Community College in Elyria, Ohio, has utilized a clinician/educator model to increase the number of nursing faculty. The Professional Practice Clinician is a position where nursing faculty are required to have a master’s degree but aren’t mandated to serve on committees or conduct research. The college initiated the Professional Practice Clinician job to ease the transition for nurses who choose to move from a hospital to a classroom setting.

Creative Solutions to the Nursing Shortage

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a demand for 1.1 million new nurses over the next six years to fill 575,000 newly created positions, as well as a need to replace some 550,000 nurses who will retire by 2022.

In order to meet the demand for future nurses, many schools are engaging in creative solutions in an attempt to fill nurse faculty positions. Hospitals who partner with nursing schools to ease faculty shortages can also help themselves by being in the enviable position of having first crack at recruiting the school’s top graduates.

In Texas, Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Hospital has collaborated with Lone Star College-Montgomery for the past eight years in order to expand the college’s nursing program. As part of their partnership, the hospital covers the costs of an additional nursing faculty member for the college, allowing Lone Star to expand its nursing program.

The AACN reports that states are also taking action to ease the nursing faculty shortage. For example, two years ago, the state of Wisconsin announced a $3.2 million grant called the Nurses for Wisconsin Initiative that seeks to provide fellowships and loan forgiveness for nurses interested in teaching in the state after graduation. Led by the UW-Eau Claire School of Nursing, the Nurses for Wisconsin Initiative hopes to rapidly develop more nursing educators at UW campuses throughout the state.

Seeking a More Diverse Faculty Base

In addition to increasing nursing faculty, educators say diversity among nursing professors is also lacking. Elizabeth Florez, PhD, RN, an assistant professor at the DePaul University School of Nursing in Chicago, Illinois, says that while there is a great need for nursing professors overall, there is also a critical need to recruit more nurses from minority backgrounds as faculty members.

“We encourage master’s degree students to seek clinical instructor positions once they obtain sufficient nursing experience and to continue their advanced education to the Doctorate in Nursing Practice (DNP) or PhD level to obtain a faculty position,” Florez says. “Currently, DePaul University has a Bridges to PhD program, which is a National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded grant program affiliated with the University of Illinois at Chicago.”

Florez says the program is structured to increase the number of minority faculty with a PhD. Eligible DePaul nursing students enrolled in the master’s entry to nursing practice (MENP) program are able to apply to the Bridges to PhD program, and those who qualify will be provided with resources and support to ensure they are adequately prepared for the PhD program.

Monica McLemore, PhD, MPH, RN, an assistant professor in the family health care nursing department at the University of California, San Francisco, says she regularly hears about the lack of underrepresented minorities among nursing educators.

“Personally, I’ve never had a black faculty member for any course I’ve ever taken so I can relate,” says McLemore. “Students want and need to see role models who have been successful in nursing, and I’m extremely disappointed that more than 22 years after my initial nursing education, the numbers haven’t improved. “

To help increase the number of minority nurses in teaching, Johnson and Johnson and the AACN Minority Nurse Faculty Scholars program provides financial support to graduate nursing students from minority backgrounds who agree to teach in a school of nursing after graduation. Students must be enrolled full-time and preference is given to those in doctoral programs. For application information, visit aacn.nche.edu/students/scholarships/minority.

Linda Childers

Linda Childers

Linda Childers is a freelance writer based in California.
Linda Childers

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