The current shortage of nurses severely threatens the ability of health care agencies to continue providing access to quality health care services. The demand for nurses is expected to escalate until 2020. The good news is that there’s a growing interest in nursing as a career. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) reported enrollment of entry-level baccalaureate nursing students increased 13 percent from 2004 to 2005. The bad news is that for the fifth consecutive year, U.S. nursing baccalaureate schools have turned away more than 30,000 qualified applicants, and associate degree programs rejected 110,576 applicants. The primary reason for the denial of students is the shortage of nursing faculty. Other reasons include insufficient classrooms, laboratories, clinical space, and limited student scholarships. In essence, nursing programs are turning away potential registered nurses (RNs), posing an even greater risk to the nursing workforce.
The Special Survey on Vacant Faculty Positions, released by AACN in July 2004, reported an 8.1 percent vacancy rate, which equated to an average of 2.9 faculty vacancies per nursing program. The vacant positions are due to resignations, projected retirements, new positions required to accommodate increased enrollment, lack of competitive faculty salaries, and decreased interest in a career in nursing education. The faculty shortage is expected to swell into even larger numbers as the anticipated retirements occur in the next decade. Unless definitive steps are taken to address the faculty shortage, the demand for nurses will be intensified. The supply of new nurses will decrease.
In response to the current and future needs for nurses, the Saint Francis College of Nursing has done the following:
• Started a graduate nursing program in 2001, which prepares both faculty and clinicians. The college has hired two of the eight graduates as full-time faculty and two as part-time faculty. Three of the graduates are working as faculty in other local colleges.
• Is actively exploring the feasibility of a doctor of nurse practice degree. This degree provides advanced preparation at the highest level of nursing practice.
• Increased enrollment from 155 students in 2001 to 380 students in 2006. In 2005-2006, 109 students graduated, and more than 85 percent remained at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center.
• Expanded classroom and laboratory capacity to accommodate increased enrollment.
• Increased access to nursing education through online courses. The College of Nursing, like other higher education institutions, is in transition from traditional, on-campus classes to online courses. The graduate program is predominantly online, thus increasing access to graduate education. Most of the courses for the RN-BSN program will be going online in the near future.
• Established two accelerated options for RNs to obtain either a bachelor’s or master’s degree.
The College of Nursing is committed to its mission to serve the community by providing competent entry level and advanced practitioners responsive to the changing health care needs of society and the health care system. IBI