Nursing Educators Are in Short Supply

It’s a shocking truth: nursing schools are turning away thousands of qualified applicants, even though there’s a projected nursing shortage for the years ahead.

As reported in this NBC News article, the health care industry is being hit with “a double whammy” as it becomes apparent that the upcoming shortage cannot be alleviated by educating more nurses – simply because there is also a shortage of nursing educators.

According to a survey by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), a whopping 75,587 nursing school applicants were denied admission in 2011 alone. Within this total, the rejected applicants included 58,327 from entry-level BSN programs, 2,906 from RN-to-BSN, 13,198 from master’s, and 1,156 from doctoral programs.

Within this survey, the reasons reported by nursing schools for turning away qualified students included not only lack of faculty, but insufficient classroom space and clinical teaching sites. In other words, they simply don’t have the capacity to accommodate ever-increasing numbers of students.

So what can be done? First of all, we have to fill open faculty positions in nursing schools, by attracting more nurses to a career in education. (If this career path appeals to you, then read on!)

Secondly, the rising generation of nurse educators will need to look toward non-traditional education models that can “scale up” the number of students they can accommodate, at all education levels from the nursing diploma through the doctoral degree. Remember, the industry needs not only more nurses, but more educated nurses as well. (Both the Institute of Medicine and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching have concluded that nurses should progress to higher levels of schooling.)

Nursing schools that use a distance learning model, like American Sentinel University, are helping to transform nursing education. Because we’re not tied to a specific location, we can make higher education available to a wider pool of students – including working nurses who have constraints on their time or live in rural areas far from traditional classrooms. We can also hire the best faculty from all over the country and can add adjunct faculty as our enrollments increase. And because we leverage technology for more efficient and effective instruction, we’re not locked into a traditional semester schedule – so students can start classes during every month of the year, according to what’s convenient for them.

The basic lesson here is that educating greater numbers of nurses means letting go of ingrained cultural beliefs about traditional methods of nursing education. Concepts like simulation centers and using staff nurses – rather than graduate-level nurse educators – as preceptors and coaches at clinical sites are also worth consideration. State nursing boards might also remove barriers to non-traditional educational approaches; particularly those that restrict a graduate’s eligibility to be licensed.

To achieve greater capacity, we need transformational innovations in the ways we educate nurses – even if they disrupt or displace more traditional models of nursing education. With more innovation in education comes a higher level of knowledge and competence in nursing practice.

If you’re interested in becoming a nurse educator or advancing your current career in nursing education, please consider American Sentinel’s online nursing degree programs.

  • Our MSN in Nursing Education is designed for experienced nurses wanting to pursue educator roles within a clinical environment or become faculty members at traditional or non-traditional schools of nursing. The specialization emphasizes curriculum development, teaching to various learning styles, and teaching via distance technology.
  • Our DNP in Educational Leadership is a practice-based, leadership-focused program that prepares program directors and nursing school deans to lead and develop innovative nursing education programs.
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