Nursing jobs are among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, but the sudden increase in demand from employers and students has left colleges struggling to keep up, Parija Kavilanz writes for CNN.
“There’s tremendous demand from students who want to enter nursing programs, but schools are tapped out,” says Robert Rosseter, associate executive director of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN). In 2017, undergrad nursing programs turned away more than 56,000 qualified applicants, according to the AACN.
Across the board, nursing programs at both the two- and four-year level face several obstacles to keeping up with the flood of applicants.
For one thing, nursing programs face a shortage of qualified teachers. “The annual national faculty vacancy rate in nursing programs is over 7%. That’s pretty high,” says Rosseter. Many potential nurse educators choose to work as practitioners, where they can earn a higher average salary, writes Kavilanz.
Many programs also face limited access to hospitals and clinics for clinical rotations. “There’s not enough available clinical space to train students,” says Rosseter.
For example, Michigan’s Board of Nursing reduced the student-to-faculty ratio for clinical training to avoid overcrowding in hospitals and clinics. In response, many nursing programs had to shrink their class size accordingly.
“We used to send eight to 10 nursing students per instructor to hospitals for clinical rotations. Now it’s six students,” says Jane Kirschling, dean of nursing at the University of Maryland.
As demand for nursing programs continues to grow, campus leaders predict bottlenecks ahead. Pediatrics, obstetrics, and mental health, which have the most unmet demand for clinical training, are the most likely areas for course bottlenecks, says Kirschling.
To address the nursing shortage, colleges have to “think out of the box,” says Rebecca Myszenski, dean of health sciences at Mott Community College (MCC). At MCC, the nursing program has partnered with the University of Michigan‘s 16-month nursing program for veterans to establish a bridge program.
And at West Virginia University, the nursing school aims to partner with hospitals to “allow [their] nursing staff to [be able] to teach,” says Tara Hulsey, the dean of the nursing school (Kavilanz, CNN, 5/9)