Cure the Nurse Educator Shortage

The healthcare industry needs more nurses to care for an aging population that suffers from chronic medical conditions. Accordingly, there is a growing need for nurse educators to prepare nursing students. However, there is a shortage of faculty to fill vacancies. Nurses who decide to complete a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program can help alleviate the problem by choosing nursing education as their specialty.

What Is a Nurse Educator?

Nurse educators are registered nurses (RN) with clinical experience who have completed at least an MSN program. They have in-depth knowledge and expertise in the field of nursing so they can teach at colleges and universities. In meeting their responsibilities they:

  • Develop, appraise and teach curricula
  • Advise nursing students
  • Oversee students’ clinical practice
  • Evaluate students
  • Mentor students
  • Produce scholarly work
  • Speak at conferences
  • Serve on academic committees
  • Maintain clinical competence and stay current on policies and procedures

Why Is There a Shortage?

Changes in patient demographics are driving the growing need for nurses and the faculty required to prepare them. Younger nurse educators are needed since most nurse educators are in their 50s or approaching retirement age. Lacking an adequate supply of nurse educators, nursing schools are turning away qualified applicants, adding to the nurse deficit. Other factors contributing to the nurse educator shortage include:

  • Budget constraints that hinder the hiring of new educators
  • Difficulty recruiting eligible instructors

Why Are Nurses Avoiding Faculty Positions?

Nurses avoid careers in nursing education mainly because they can earn higher salaries in clinical settings and the private sector. In addition, an MSN is the minimal level of preparation to become a nurse educator, and some nurses may not be able to afford the cost of a graduate program.

How Does The Shortage Affect the Healthcare Industry?

The nurse educator shortage has a direct influence on the number of nurses entering the workforce. This can lead to understaffing in healthcare facilities which could force nurses to work long hours causing stress, fatigue and possibly burnout. Overworked nurses can adversely affect the well-being of patients.

How Can the Shortage Be Alleviated?

Nursing schools have to start offering comparable salaries in order to make the job more attractive to potential candidates. To offset the cost of graduate school, nursing students can apply for grants, loan forgiveness programs and scholarships. Another way nursing students can save money is by completing an MSN through an online program like the one found at Northeastern State University (NSU). Focused on nursing education, NSU’s MSN is 100 percent online and can be completed in as few as 12 months.

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) is securing federal funding for faculty development programs. The AACN wants to collect data on faculty vacancy rates, draw media attention to the issue, and find ways to eliminate the shortage.

Nurse educators are needed to prepare the next generation of nurses. Solving the nursing shortage is imperative because a lack of nurses can jeopardize patient safety. The healthcare industry and nursing schools should work together to combat the shortage. Nursing schools must raise salaries for nurse educators and provide alternative tracks like online programs for obtaining an MSN.

Learn more about NSU’s online MSN in Nursing Education program.

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