(Content sponsored by CUNY School of Professional Studies.)
Nurse faculty are retiring at a pace that exceeds the number of nurses who are assuming faculty positions. The nurse faculty shortage could have grave implications in healthcare if it is not addressed. As the population ages and becomes increasingly diverse, the demand for nurses who are prepared to meet the healthcare needs of a pluralistic society will intensify. It has been posited that the U.S. will experience one of the largest nursing shortages ever, with estimates that could reach 500,000 by 2025. If faculty roles continue to go unfilled, institutions will find it difficult to accept enough students to meet the growing demand for nurses. As a result, the nursing shortage could get worse.
The recruitment of nurse faculty continues to pose numerous challenges. First, tuition costs at the graduate level could discourage potential nursing applicants. Grants, loan forgiveness programs and scholarships could offset the expenses associated with education and are invaluable. However, if funding for tuition is secured, locating a nursing education program could be problematic. A quick glance at graduate programs reveals an imbalance between the high number of nurse practitioner tracks and the limited number of nurse educator tracks. What’s more, some nurses seek faculty positions but cite low salaries as a deterrent. Low salaries coupled with a limited number of nursing education programs, could suggest to nurses that the nurse faculty role is not valued. Nurse faculty salaries should be comparable to the clinical role and nursing programs must recognize the significance of nurse educator tracks.
Lastly, recruitment initiatives to strengthen the racial and ethnic diversity of faculty have not translated into a significant increase in underrepresented groups who serve as faculty. Nursing programs should assess the extent to which the academic environment is inclusive and develop a plan to ensure that the need for a diverse cadre of nurse faculty becomes a reality.
Nurse faculty should be able to create learning environments where culturally diverse students demonstrate an appreciation for diversity and have opportunities to learn from and across different disciplines. However, some faculty believe their educational programs did not prepare them to facilitate difficult conversations that include race, power, privilege and implicit bias. To improve the quality of healthcare, nurse educator programs must prepare future nurse faculty to deliver more than nursing content and skills and create measurement and evaluation instruments. Nursing programs should ensure that a representative sample of their nurse faculty have a master’s of science in nursing education and are skilled in equity pedagogy, designing socially just curriculum, simulation and creating culturally responsive learning environments.
The nursing professions’ ability to improve the nation’s health hinges in part on the future of nursing education. Indeed, nurse faculty play a critical role in preparing future nurses to address the social determinants of health and explore how numerous external factors impact health. To that end, nursing programs should emphasize the invaluable role of nurse faculty, step up recruitment efforts for the next generation of nurse faculty and provide nursing education tracks that address the healthcare needs of today’s multicultural society.
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