Factors that contribute to the shortage of nurses in many healthcare facilities are multifaceted. General population growth, an increase in the number of retiring nurses, and an increase in the aging population are the most prevalent.
Experts also point out that nursing schools have played a significant role in the problem. So, why is there a nursing shortage, and is there a link between the current shortage and that of nursing school educators?
A report by the AACN showed that US nursing schools turned away more than 75,000 qualified applicants from nursing programs in 2018. The reasons behind it were budget constraints, shortage of faculty, lack of clinical preceptors, insufficient classroom space, and limited clinical sites.
Why there a shortage of nursing educators and how it leads to a nurse shortage
Factors that have contributed to the shortage of nurse educators include:
AACN reports that the average ages of nurse instructors that hold the ranks of assistant professor, associate professor, and professor are 51, 57, and 62 years respectively.
That means many faculty members are retiring or will retire early, hence the shortage of academically trained individuals to teach nursing classes.
- Better salaries in the private sector
Clinical settings and the private sector offer better compensation for doctorally-prepared nurse educators. As a result, many of them are abandoning teaching as a profession and joining the clinical practice.
- Nursing programs are not producing enough educators
Many institutions are not accepting a large number of qualified applicants to nursing programs every year. As a result, many nursing programs are not producing enough educators to address demand. A shortage of faculty that can teach doctoral and master’s programs means that institutions cannot produce enough educators.
- Late entry to educative roles
Most individuals who enter nursing education as a career do so when they are getting older. That means most nurses do not serve as educators long enough since they will only have a few years before retiring.
In most cases, nurses cope with finishing undergraduate degrees and starting graduate programs. They then enroll to graduate nursing school part-time. Thus, many of them reach their 40s even before they start teaching. The consequence is that it impacts the recruitment of a new faculty that can teach qualified applicants.
- Lack of resources in nursing schools
Many nursing schools have challenges of finding qualified faculty because of a lack of funds to hire new nurse instructors. Also, many are finding it challenging to recruit new applicants due to increased competition from the private sector and clinical nursing jobs.
One primary consequence of the nursing faculty shortage is that it is limiting the capacity of students to enroll in nursing programs. That has created an environment whereby fewer nurses are graduating, and more are retiring.
Generally, the truth about the nursing shortage in the US is that one of its sources has been a lack of nurse educators. The shortage of educators means that many schools are turning away qualified applicants for nursing programs. That creates a cycle whereby learning institutions are not producing enough nurses to support the healthcare needs of patients. Nevertheless, since many nursing faculty are nearing the retirement age, there is a small number of productive years left for them to teach.