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The United States is facing a critical shortage in all health care professions. With the nation’s baby boomer population approaching retirement age, the issue is twofold: the aging population requires more care, and the nation’s physicians, nurses, and other health professionals are retiring.
Too Many Students, Not Enough Options
The solution to filling this gap is replacing the departing health care professionals with nursing graduates of all academic levels. However, many higher education institutions are turning away suitable candidates in droves. In 2016, nursing degree programs in the U.S. rejected 64,067 qualified applicants from baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs alike citing a lack of budget, faculty, clinical sites and preceptors, and classroom space.
Currently, there is a serious shortage of physicians, which continues to grow. By 2025, there will be a projected deficit of nearly 35,600 primary care doctors alone. Nursing schools are facing the struggle and strain to increase the capacity of existing nursing programs, and explore other avenues like online courses and accreditation.
Higher Education Means Higher Pay
Enrollment is increasing in nursing masters and doctoral programs across the country, and it’s no wonder that nurses are applying to graduate schools en masse. RNs realize there are significant perks to training and becoming an advanced practice registered nurse. Evidence shows that the quality of care by an advanced practice nurse is comparable to physicians, while often more affordable.
The full-time annual salary for a Nurse Practitioner (NP) averages $105,546. The high pay range of the NP may be partly to blame for the faculty shortage—higher compensation in the clinical setting is luring potential educators away from teaching.
Most vacant faculty positions require a terminal nursing degree. If more nurses pursue a doctoral degree, the faculty shortage will be alleviated. What will the outcomes of the nursing shortage be? Only time will tell.
Caitlin Goodwin MSN, RN, CNM is a Board Certified Nurse-Midwife and freelance writer. She has ten years of nursing experience and graduated with a MSN from Frontier Nursing University.