The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lists nursing as one of its top growing professions. In fact, over the next decade, demand for nurses will grow by 19.1 percent. The aging population as well as high retirement rates among current nurses are two factors driving demand for new nurses. By 2022, the U.S. could have as many as 1.05 million job openings for nurses.
At the same time, faculty shortages at schools of nursing are causing universities to turn away qualified candidates. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), universities turned away almost 80,000 qualified applicants from baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs because they didn’t have enough faculty to teach classes for incoming nurses. Experienced nurses that want to become educators should think about a PhD in Nursing program (click here for an example). In addition to getting their doctoral degrees, they could fulfill a critical need for shorthanded nursing schools.
The Nursing Faculty Shortage by the Numbers
Most people assume that America’s chronic nursing shortage lingers on because not enough students want to become nurses. In truth, universities have plenty of qualified applicants, but they don’t have enough faculty to teach them:
- There are many, many vacancies. A special AACN survey completed at the end of 2013 found that 680 nursing colleges had 1,358 vacant faculty positions, but universities are advertising for far fewer faculty than they actually need. The National League of Nursing (NLN) says that the U.S. needs 400,000 nursing students enrolled in its colleges. Using a 10:1 faculty to student ratio, the U.S. would need 40,000 nurse educators to teach those students. Currently, the U.S. has about 50 percent of the faculty members that it needs to build the nurse population.
- Most vacancies persist because faculty applicants lack doctoral degrees. About 87 percent of vacant positions required or preferred a doctoral degree. Nursing colleges cite lack of doctoral preparation as their top hiring challenge.
- Current faculty are retiring. Many nursing faculty members with doctorates have reached retirement age. As a result, the faculty shortage is only getting worse.
- Universities struggle to replace retired nurse educators. In 2012, AACN identified 14,000 vacant slots in masters and doctoral programs for nursing, and the top reason that universities turn away qualified graduate candidates is that they have insufficient faculty to teach them. Unfortunately, these students become the faculty of the future, creating anongoing loop that exacerbates the faculty shortage.
Incentives for Becoming Nurse Educators
Private practice often lures nurses with doctoral degrees because salaries are significantly higher. For example, according to the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, the average salary for an NP is $94,050, and the average salary for nursing faculty is $80,690. As a result, some states have developed financial incentives to encourage nurses to join university faculty. Wisconsin, for example, which has projected a nursing shortfall of 20,000 by 2035, developed the $3.2 million Nurses for Wisconsin initiative. The initiative pays for fellowships and loan forgiveness if nurses agree to teach in Wisconsin after they graduate.
Other organizations have assembled funding to encourage nurses to earn doctoral degrees. The Jonas Center for Nursing and Veterans Healthcare’s Nurse Leaders Scholars Program has developed institutional awards given out at many universities around the country. These awards help universities to develop joint faculty models between their schools of nursing and academic health centers. They also help universities involve their doctoral candidates in undergraduate nurse education.
NLN has also developed some recommendations for recruiting talented nurse educators. The organization suggests that nursing faculty recruit from among their undergraduates, taking note of students that have strong talent for nurse education. They should also actively recruit experienced nurses who demonstrate pedagogical skills. NLN also recommends that all doctoral programs include teaching experiences, and it recommends that universities allow doctoral students to conduct research in both nursing and pedagogy.
The National Need for More Nurses
The American Nurses Association predicts that as the Baby Boomers age, about 2 to 3 million Americans per year will become eligible for Medicare. In addition, the Affordable Care Act has expanded health-insurance availability to many Americans, increasing demand for care in both hospitals and clinics. America’s primary care physician shortage has increased demand for APRNs in clinical practice. America needs nurses with advanced degrees, and it needs qualified faculty to educate them.