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Shortage of Faculty and Resource Constraints Hinder Growth in U.S. Nursing

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September 21, 2010 - New data from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) confirm that growth in U.S. schools of nursing is being restrained by a shortage of faculty, which is driven by a limited pool of doctorally-prepared nurses and noncompetitive faculty salaries. Based on data received from 556 schools of nursing in the U.S. with baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs (70.3% response rate), the nurse faculty vacancy rate in 2010 was 6.9%, up slightly from 6.6% in 2009. Almost all reported vacancies (92.6%) are for faculty positions requiring or preferring a doctoral degree in nursing or a related field.

“Moving to prepare more nurses with doctoral degrees must be a priority for the profession if we are to meet the nation’s expanding need for nurse faculty, researchers, and primary care providers,” said AACN President Kathleen Potempa. “With the faculty shortage expected to balloon over the next ten years and the demand for expert nurses increasing in response to healthcare reform, policymakers and other stakeholders must take decisive action now to maximize enrollment in graduate nursing programs.”

Since 2000, AACN has collected data from schools of nursing to assess the current state of the faculty shortage. The survey collects data on budgeted, but unfilled full-time faculty positions by rank, tenure, and level of teaching. In July 2010, a total of 880 faculty vacancies were identified at 303 nursing schools with baccalaureate and/or graduate programs across the country. Besides these vacancies, 112 schools cited the need to create 257 additional faculty positions to accommodate student demand. The latest data show a national nurse faculty vacancy rate of 6.9% with most vacant positions either requiring (55.5%) or preferring (37.1%) candidates with doctoral degrees. The top reasons cited by schools having difficulty finding faculty were the limited pool of doctorally-prepared faculty (30.4%) and noncompetitive salaries compared to positions in the practice arena (30.2%). To review the 2010 survey findings, including vacancy rate by region and selected characteristics of vacant positions, see http://www.aacn.nche.edu/IDS/pdf/vacancy10.pdf.

The latest AACN survey data show that nursing schools are continuing to feel the impact of the nation’s struggling economy with many schools facing budget cuts and hiring freezes, which makes it difficult to increase the faculty pool. This pattern is similar to what is occurring in the registered nurse workforce.

Source: American Association of Colleges of Nursing