Nursing shortage shines light on faculty shortfall
National Nurses Week (May 6-12, 2016), is a time to celebrate the nursing profession, and to recognize the impact that nurses make in our lives, in our communities and in the health care system. Nurses are caregivers, patient advocates, health educators and researchers who strive to improve patient health outcomes. A reflection of what nurses mean to society, a 2015 Gallup Poll confirmed for the 14th year in a row that nurses are the most trusted profession in the United States, based on honesty and ethical standards. And, nurses are in high demand.
Nursing – Supply and demand
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that employment of registered nurses will grow 16 percent from 2014 to 2024, which is much higher than the average for all other occupations. An increased emphasis on preventive care, an aging population that is both active and living longer than past generations, and the growth in chronic diseases are significant reasons for the escalating demand. While there is a documented shortage of nurses today and for the foreseeable future, there is no shortage of the number of people who want to become nurses.
According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing 2014-2015 report on Enrollment and Graduations in Baccalaureate and Graduate Programs in Nursing, U.S. nursing colleges turned away 68,938 qualified applicants from baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs in 2014. Among the nursing schools surveyed, almost 2/3 of them noted a shortage of nursing faculty as a reason why they were unable to accept all qualified students into their programs.
The problem: Faculty ages continue to climb and salaries don’t stack up
Unfortunately, the need for more nurse educators to meet the growing demand for nurses comes at a time when many nurse educators are retiring. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing and the Forum of State Nursing Workforce Center’s report confirmed that in 2013, 55 percent of the R.N. workforce was 50 years or older. With increased demand coupled with retirements, it is anticipated that there will be more than one million job openings for RNs by 2022.
Too add to that, salaries for educators in school-based programs don’t compare to those in the hospital setting.
“The challenge of recruiting students into the Master of Science in Nursing Education (MSN-Ed.) degree program is that salaries for nurse educators are often well below what other master’s degree prepared nurses can make in a clinical or hospital setting,” said Kathryn Cochran, associate dean for student affairs at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Nursing. While compensation is an important factor in considering a potential career, it shouldn’t be the only one.
Looking beyond salaries: Intangible benefits
“Although it is true that the salaries for nurse educators are often lower than in a clinic or a hospital practice, my career as a nurse educator allows me to positively impact more patients, nursing students and the nursing profession,” said Margaret Bosenbark, MSN-Ed., student and clinical instructor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Nursing. “I love working with students, and seeing them transform from nursing students into professional nurses. And, I know that they are going to change lives and make their communities better through their nursing practice.”
Flexibility is one of the hallmarks of the nursing profession. Nurses can often transition their practice from one setting to another depending on the season of their life. “Many nurse educators are raising children and appreciate the more predictable hours of teaching so they can engage with their family,” Cochran said. “But there are also a lot of nursing faculty who have worked in clinics or hospitals and see teaching as a way to give back to the profession while changing the physical demands of their careers.” For those nurses who find themselves torn between working with patients in a health care setting or teaching nursing students, the good news is that it isn’t ‘one or the other’.
“Many of my nursing friends assume that being a nurse educator means giving up the patient connection which is why most of us joined the profession,” Bosenbark said. “But that isn’t the case. As a nurse educator I am working with students and patients in clinics, and for me, that is the best of both the nursing practice and education world.”
Creating solutions to the shortage
To even begin to solve the critical shortage of nurses, there needs to be an increase in the capacity of nursing schools to educate and graduate nurse educators, and it’s one of the reasons Texas A&M College of Nursing offers flexible online programs, including an MSN-Ed. degree program designed for the working professional nurse who wants to become a nurse educator.
“Throughout my studies in the master’s program, I have worked full-time while raising my children,” Bosenbark said. “I have worked in both clinic and hospital settings, and I can tell you that becoming a nurse educator has been a natural progression from teaching patients, their families and colleagues. The online courses, the ability to engage with other students in the program and opportunities to be mentored by the faculty has been great. I can’t imagine doing anything else.”
For more information on the degree plans offered by the Texas A&M College of Nursing, visit their website.