Lack of Faculty Contributes to Nurse Shortage

One of the most critical components of improving the nurse shortage is to be able to adequately educate the next generation of them. But with the national faculty vacancy rate at 6.6 percent for nursing schools offering baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs, the student to teacher ratio is suffering. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing reported in their 2009-2010 annual survey, that 54,991 qualified applicants were turned away from nursing programs largely due to a lack of faculty. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing provides a glimpse into the struggle nursing schools are facing when it comes to faculty vacancies in “Special Survey on Vacant Faculty Positions for Academic Year 2009 – 2010.”

In the 2009-2010 school year, many schools were lacking when it came to their faculty. The survey reports that 56 percent of schools had vacancies and needed additional faculty, 21.2 percent did not have vacancies but needed additional faculty, and 22.9 percent did not have any vacancies and did not need additional faculty. Of the schools reporting faculty vacancies, the number of positions totaled 803, with a vacancy rate of 9.7 percent.

When it came to finding qualified candidates to fill vacant positions, 31.8 percent of schools preferred candidates who had a master’s degree as well as a doctorate, and 58.8 percent required that candidates had earned a doctorate. Concerning the teaching level of the vacant positions, 31.7 percent of the positions called for teaching at the baccalaureate level, 29.7 percent at the baccalaureate and master’s level, 10.1 percent at the master’s and doctoral level, and 20.5 percent of the positions required teaching at all levels. The majority of the positions, 74.3 percent, required teaching in both classroom and clinical environments, while 22.5 percent of the positions required only teaching in a classroom.

According to the study, the major reasons keeping nursing schools from hiring additional full-time faculty for the school year included insufficient funds to hire new faculty, the inability to recruit qualified faculty because of job competition, and the lack of qualified applicants in the geographical area. When it came to faculty recruitment and retention, nursing schools faced many critical issues. Thirty-two percent of nursing schools had problems with noncompetitive salaries, 30.3 percent were faced with a limited pool of doctorally prepared faculty, and 16.5 percent had problems finding faculty with the right mix of specialties. Nursing schools also experienced issues with finding faculty that were able and willing to teach clinical courses and conduct research.