The NPR has recently reported (October 25th, 2021), that becoming a nurse has become more challenging in recent years.
The fact this has come about at a time when hospitals nationwide are trying to address nurse shortages is disappointing, to say the least. Furthermore, enrollment and applications to U.S nursing schools actually rose last year.
The narrowing of the pipeline for new nurses is due to a number of factors. For one, the NPR reports that U.S. nursing schools turned away 80,407 qualified applicants in 2019.
This was from baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs where insufficient resources meant a larger number of students could not be taken on.
Faculty numbers, clinical sites, classroom space, and finances, were all factors leading to the diminished resources, (according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.)
As is the case in so many areas of nursing, nurse educators are not gaining the financial incentive that they deserve. Tutors require advanced degrees, yet will often earn about half that of a nurse pursuing a career on the hospital floor.
The lack of teachers is directly contributing to the insufficient numbers of qualified practitioners.
Understandably the pandemic exacerbated financial strains and classroom sizes as fewer students could attend nursing college. (However, this was curtailed slightly through the use of virtual learning, and simulation labs).
Overall, many professional educators were forced to look elsewhere for employment.
Sharon Goldfarb, DNP, BSN, teaches nursing in California. She surveyed 91 California community colleges and found a 30 percent decrease in nursing faculty staff since the beginning of the pandemic. Dr. Goldfarb also reported that:
“There is not a school I know of that isn’t desperately looking for nursing faculty.”
According to the NPR, U.S. nursing faculty has dropped nationwide to about two-thirds what it was in 2015.
The aging demographic of medical practitioners is also a factor. The American Nurses Association estimates that more than 500,000 nurses plan to retire by 2022. This is on top of those that decided to take early retirement due to the strain of working during the pandemic.
The NPR concluded that during a time of staff shortages both in the wards and the classroom, hospitals have to make efforts to lower the various barriers to becoming a nurse.
This of course has to be balanced with continuing high standards of education, training, and patient care.