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Faculty Shortage and Low Nursing School Enrollment Impact Nursing Shortage


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By Melissa Wirkus, associate editor

Data released by The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) reveals that faculty shortages and low nursing school enrollment growth will have a significant impact on the nursing shortage.

The faculty shortage is impacting the nursing shortage and the low enrollment in nursing schools directly, due to the fact that there are not enough teachers for nursing programs, causing thousands of qualified students to be turned away.

“U.S. nursing schools turned away 40,285 qualified applicants to baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs in 2007 due to an insufficient number of faculty, clinical sites, classroom space, clinical preceptors and budget constraints,” according to AACN's report on 2007-2008 Enrollment and Graduations in Baccalaureate and Graduate Programs in Nursing. “Almost three quarters (71.4%) of the nursing schools that responded to the survey pointed to faculty shortages as a reason for not accepting all qualified applicants into nursing programs.”

The impact of the faculty shortage on nursing school enrollment is reflected in the low enrollment numbers reported by the AACN.

The AACN reports that enrollment growth within colleges of nursing has hit an 8-year low, with enrollment increasing only 2 percent from 2007 to 2008.

“The nation’s nursing schools are facing considerable barriers to expanding student capacity despite the calls for more nurses to replace the large segment of the workforce expected to retire within the next 10 years,” said Fay Raines, president of the AACN, in a statement. “This year’s enrollment increases are welcome, but largely insufficient to meet the projected demand for nursing clinicians, educators and researchers into the foreseeable future.”

“Though this marks the eighth consecutive year of enrollment growth, the annual increase in student capacity in four-year nursing programs has declined sharply since 2003 when enrollment was up by 16.6 percent,” according to a statement from the AACN.

The faculty shortage is attributed to a number of factors including an aging population, budget restraints and cuts, a looming wave of retirees and the lure of more lucrative clinical positions outside of the classroom.

Without the necessary staff to teach nursing students, the nursing shortage is predicted to get much worse in the coming years as the number of new nurses entering the workforce decreases.

“The significant drop in the number of students turned away may indicate that students, frustrated in their attempts to enroll in nursing programs, are moving on and seeking careers in other fields,” said Dr. Raines. “If our nation’s nursing schools are to effectively address the current and future nursing shortage, we must find ways to expand student capacity and accommodate all qualified applicants in our programs.”

The AACN has devised several strategies for tackling the faculty shortage including appeals to the U.S. government and partnerships with leading organizations that have an interest and concern for nursing.

“To minimize the impact of faculty shortages on the nation's nursing shortage, the AACN is leveraging its resources to secure federal funding for faculty development programs, collect data on faculty vacancy rates, identify strategies to address the shortage and focus media attention on this important issue,” according to the AAACN.

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