Why There’s a Shortage of Nurse Educators, and Why That’s a Problem
Observations from a nursing professor
Covid-19 has upended our local, national, and global communities. Facing down the destruction requires enormous dedication, and we’re seeing the highest quality of nursing care lead the charge at clinics and hospitals.
These people take to the front lines day and night to combat the pandemic despite limited protective equipment, surging patient levels, and overwhelming exhaustion. While as a collective society we show our support and appreciation for their tireless efforts, it is important to keep in mind that behind every frontline nurse are nurse educators who prepared them for this role, and we need more of them.
Many are familiar with the longstanding nursing shortage in this country, but few may know of the subsequent compounding shortage in nurse faculty at colleges and universities across the country. As a nurse educator and former pediatric trauma nurse, I am well versed in the immediate and long-term impact of both shortages.
For context, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), the largest specialty nursing organization, found that nursing programs in the United States turned away approximately 75,000 qualified applicants from baccalaureate and graduate programs in 2018. Schools outlined a number of factors that led to this result, the first of which was “an insufficient number of faculty.” A lack of nurse educators at the associate, undergraduate, and even graduate level has been shown to have a direct and negative impact on the programs’ capacity to enroll students. This, in turn, reduces the number of clinically prepared nurses who are eligible to enter the health care workforce each year and respond to communities and patients experiencing a crisis such as Covid-19.
Why are so few nurses turning to careers in higher education? There is no one contributing factor to the shortage, but research by the National League of Nursing cites a number of challenges, including recruitment and retention of doctorally prepared nurses and the competitive salaries offered in the clinical and private sector, as reasons for limited rosters of nursing academics. These factors compete simultaneously to ultimately reduce the number of…