As I’ve written in past blog entries the nursing shortage is due not to a lack of interest but a lack of nurse educators. Nationally, 42,866 qualified applicants were turned away from traditional brick and mortar nursing schools for the past fall’s semester because there are simply not enough seats, according to the American Association of Colleges and Nursing. Those figures include just the bachelors in nursing degree program. But the pinch is being felt at the community college level, too.
There aren’t enough seats because there aren’t enough nurse educators. “Almost every school could accommodate more students if we had more faculty,” said Robert Rosseter, the association’s associate executive director. One of the main issues contributing to the national nursing shortage is that nurses today have career tracks that have diverted them from academia. Nurses with graduate-level (Masters in Nursing) degrees are in high demand. Their skills are needed to tend to patients who are older and sicker than they were in the past. These nurse practitioners frequently earn more money than faculty members. Adding to the problem is a growing number of students training to be licensed practical nurses, who work under the direction of registered nurses. Hospitals are happy to help with their hands-on training, but the practical nursing students are taking up clinical training spots that could be held by the prospective registered nurses.
The good news is that some help is on the way. The federal government in 2002 created the Nurse Reinvestment Act, a $4.8 million-a-year nurse educator loan program. Also, states are now pulling the resources together to raise funds to create scholarships for prospective nurse educators. Additionally, more Universities across the country are creating RN to MSN programs for nurses who want to be professors. These programs are becoming the standard for busy nurses who, in many cases, need to keep working.