Nursing Groups Cite Looming Employment Shortage

The nursing industry says it's struggling to meet a growing need for nursing care with fewer new nurses---a problem that one association says is compounded by a teaching shortfall. Some schools are attempting to remedy the issue by launching accelerated programs.

An organization in the nursing field is the latest association working to confront a looming workforce shortage.

As baby boomers reach retirement age both inside and outside of the nursing field, there will be a growing shortage of employed nurses, along with a corresponding increase in the number of nurses needed, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. AACN cites U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projections that, by 2022, there will be 3.24 million positions for registered nurses, an increase of 19 percent from 2012. Based on predicted job growth and the need for replacements, the total number of open nursing jobs will be 1.05 million.

A recent survey from CareerBuilder finds that 56 percent of healthcare providers have open R.N. positions but can’t find qualified candidates. The inability to fill those positions is leading to stress among current nurses, with 7 in 10 saying they’re experiencing burnout.

The challenge isn’t limited to increasing the number of nursing students, either. A lack of nursing faculty could exacerbate the problem, forcing schools to turn away applicants, AACN says.

“Faculty shortages at nursing schools across the country are limiting student capacity at a time when the need for nurses continues to grow,” the association states on its website. “Budget constraints, an aging faculty, and increasing job competition from clinical sites have contributed to this emerging crisis.”

In comments to CNBC, American Nurses Association President Pamela Cipriano noted that the problem is even more acute in rural areas that have seen a loss in population.

“We are seeing growing shortages in different states and geographic reasons. It’s a real distribution issue that is only getting worse,” Cipriano told the network. “When we talk to nurse executives and staff around the country, we hear they have difficulty recruiting, and nurses are short-staffed.”

Some programs are trying new tactics to attract students into the nursing world. For example, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock recently announced a partnership with CHI St. Vincent, a regional health network, launching an accelerated career-track program for 40 nursing students per year, offering financial assistance, and helping graduates gain employment in central Arkansas’ health system, which has 700 vacant nursing positions.

A similar program at Utica College in New York state is designed to get nursing students into the workforce in just 16 months. But, as notes, the instructor challenge is significant and has forced the school’s Liverpool campus to rely on professional nurses at SUNY Upstate Medical University to teach courses.

“We’ll have SUNY employees that actually teach for us in the evenings and weekends, which is great because they know the floor, they know the facility, they get to know the students, and they can get them jobs there, too,” said Patricia Farley, Utica College’s director of nursing academic services. “So, that’s a win-win situation for everybody.”


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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