Nursing News

Nursing Programs’ Capacity Improving, Students More Diverse, NLN Survey Finds


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June 25, 2013 - A long-standing issue of unmet demand for seats in U.S. nursing schools appears to be easing, according to the newly-released National League for Nursing (NLN) Annual Survey of Schools of Nursing. Respondents indicated that education capacity is expanding, with shorter waiting lists for entry into nursing programs.

The latest trend is seen as a change in the right direction for educators and prospective students, especially after years of shortages that peaked in the late-2000s and in the early part of this decade. 

"This is encouraging news," said NLN President Judith Halstead, PhD, RN, FAAN, ANEF, in a written statement. "Just two years ago the percentage of nursing programs that turned away qualified applicants was peaking across all types of nursing education programs, including almost two thirds of baccalaureate programs."

"In that same year, 2011, almost half of doctoral programs rejected qualified applicants,” added Beverly Malone, PhD, RN, FAAN, NLN’s chief executive officer, in a written statement. “With the importance of academic progression and a continuing need for doctorally prepared nurse faculty, we are pleased to note that this rejection rate has now dropped from 43 to 37 percent, though clearly we still have a long way to go. While the percentage of all types of programs citing a faculty shortage has declined since peaking in 2009, graduate programs continue to cite a lack of faculty as the primary obstacle to expansion."

Among the positive indicators in the new survey, nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of the responding schools reported that they had hired new full (in rank) faculty in the past 12 months.

When asked to rank criteria used in faculty hiring, the top five given by respondents, in order of importance, were:

1. Ability to teach particular coursework;

2. Ability to communicate effectively;

3. Having formal, graduate-level teacher training.

4. The ability to work well with others

5. Having a doctoral degree

The survey also found that the percentage of minorities enrolled in most types of post-licensure programs rose notably in 2012. RN-to-BSN programs showed the largest increase, with minority enrollment reaching 26 percent, up four percentage points. Doctoral programs also saw a gain of four percentage points, with more than one in five nursing students (22 percent) belonging to a minority group in 2012. Minority enrollment in master's programs was the same as the previous year, 24 percent.

Despite some positive news in this year’s survey, respondents reported that they continue to experience a shortage of clinical placement settings, which in particular negatively affects the expansion of practical nursing (PN) and associate’s degree of nursing (ADN) programs. Since 2010, the percentage of ADN and PN program directors who cited a shortage of clinical sites as the primary impediment to expansion has steadily increased. The percentage of PN programs citing a shortage rose 10 percent year-over-year, reaching 52 percent in 2012.

To read the NLN Annual Survey Executive Summary and view a comprehensive set of tables and figures about this year’s data, visit NLN DataView™.