Increased nursing employment opportunities exist in a stable job market. However, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, there were not enough teachers to provide classroom and clinical instruction for the 41,183 qualified applicants who were denied admission to nursing programs across the country in 2005. Saint Francis College of Nursing (SFCON) received 341 applications for 2007 and admitted 90 students in the spring and 90 in the fall. The remaining 161 qualified students who were not admitted were offered consideration for the 2008 school year.
To relieve the nursing shortage, it is critical that qualified nurses are available to teach prospective nursing students. The National League for Nursing reported 1,390 unfilled, budgeted faculty positions nationwide in 2006. This represented a 7.9 percent faculty vacancy rate in baccalaureate and higher degree programs, which is a 32 percent increase since 2002. All faculty positions for fall semester are filled at SFCON; however, additional faculty will be needed for an anticipated enrollment of 462 students in spring 2008. The projected enrollment for fall 2007 is 406 students, which is a 17 percent increase from fall 2006. With additional faculty and clinical sites the College could further increase enrollment to accommodate students who are waiting for admission in 2008.
Salient factors impacting the faculty shortage locally are:
- Lack of competitive faculty salaries. Faculty salaries are lower than those for nurse positions in clinical settings. This is a major deterrent to qualified nurses becoming teachers. For example, the salaries for the nurse practitioner (NP) or clinical nurse specialist (CNS) who works in clinical positions ranges $12,977 to $18,467 more per month than faculty. Monthly salaries for faculty should be competitive with the NP and CNS, because all three positions have equivalent educational qualifications and job responsibilities. Competitive faculty salaries will be a major accomplishment toward helping nursing programs recruit qualified faculty.
- Retirement. The National League for Nursing (2005) projected that 75 percent of current faculty will retire by 2019. The highest numbers of faculty members are expected to retire in 2009. The average age for faculty retirement is 62. In five to 10 years SFCON may have four retirements, along with new positions. The concern is: Where will the nursing programs find replacements?
The College of Nursing is dealing with the faculty shortage by:
- Providing incremental annual faculty salary adjustments to raise salaries to competitive levels
- Developing teaching and mentoring assistance for new faculty to ensure retention
- Studying incentives and retirement programs to keep senior faculty in flexible positions beyond retirement
- Collaborating with health care agencies to (a) remove barriers to RNs entering graduate school at an early age through the agencies providing flexible work schedules and tuition assistance and lessening patient care load, and (b) pair experienced nurses in clinical settings with nursing students for clinical teaching and evaluation, thus removing the need to have a faculty on the clinical site at all times.
The nurse faculty shortage is limiting nursing programs in their ability to educate the one million nurses needed by 2014. Healthcare agencies and nursing programs will need to work together to develop innovative strategies to eliminate the faculty shortage. IBI