Addressing the Challenges of the Nurse Educator Shortage

Nurse educator

Demand for nurses is outpacing enrollment in schools of nursing. Unfortunately, a shortage of nurse educators and other faculty, clinical sites, and classroom space, plus budgetary restraints, mean that nursing schools are actually turning away interested applicants. In 2016, nursing schools in the United States had to turn away more than 60,000 qualified applicants from entry-level baccalaureate programs (source).

Causes of the Nurse Educator Shortage

Faculty age
Nurse educators with a Ph.D. are 50 years or older, meaning their time as a faculty members at the professor, associate professor, and assistant professor levels are shortened. Nurse faculty with master’s degrees are also 50 years old and older.

Upcoming retirements
Because of faculty members’ age, the rate of retirement will soar in the next decade.

Higher compensation elsewhere
According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, the average salary of a nurse practitioner is nearly $20,000 more than an associate professor with a master’s degree who teaches at a school of nursing.

Not enough faculty and clinical education sites mean that qualified applicants to Ph.D. and MSN programs are turned away – which means there isn’t enough faculty for Ph.D. and master’s programs in nursing.

Strategies for Recruiting and Retaining Faculty

    1. Stipends
    Giving stipends to nursing faculty can help attract more educators to the field. A challenge to this strategy is if faculty are part of a bargaining unit, which happens at some community colleges.

    2. Hiring agreements with clinical partners
    A college or university can enlist clinical partners as faculty members. Either the faculty member is employed by the college and works independently at a clinical agency in her or his free time, or the clinical agency releases the employee to teach full-time, and the college compensates the person accordingly.

    3. Dual enrollment programs
    In a geological area, if there is a faculty shortage, community colleges and universities with nursing programs can enter into contract agreements to share faculty members.

    4. Collaborating with universities
    Nursing schools can recruit graduate students from university programs for teaching practicums. This allows the schools to observe potential faculty members and gives graduate students practical experience in front of a classroom. Another tactic would be to hire faculty who have not worked as practicing nurses in some time.

    5. Mentoring programs
    A key to retaining faculty is to facilitate mentoring and development programs. A strong mentoring program will strengthen education in curriculum development, student evaluation, and other aspects of teaching. Mentoring can be especially helpful to nurses with clinical skills and experience who are new to being faculty members.

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