The Nursing Faculty Shortage: How Can You be Part of the Solution?

By | 2020-11-17T13:06:56-05:00 November 11th, 2020|13 Comments

While exploring topics that could help nurses, I was struck by the number of articles, commentaries, and research on the nursing faculty shortage I found.

No matter who you are, the nursing faculty shortage could eventually affect you, whether you are giving or receiving care.

In a fact sheet, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) identifies the shortage’s contributing roots as “budget constraints, an aging faculty, and increasing job competition from clinical sites.”

The AACN is not the only professional nursing association or organization concerned about the shortage. The American Nurses Association (ANA) and the National League for Nursing (NLN) also have voiced their apprehensions about the current situation.

They also have proposed solutions to reduce or end the nursing faculty shortage.

Past Research

The nursing faculty shortage is a worldwide problem. In 2013 study, two nurse researchers evaluated the problem from a global perspective and offered possible solutions to the faculty shortage.

Briefly, the researchers examined proposed solutions to the global shortage of nursing faculty. They conducted a systematic review examining strategies for attracting qualified nurses to the full-time faculty role and supporting them once they take on that role.

The strategies were identified by leading nursing organizations such as the Tri-Council of Nursing and Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing.

More than 180 recommendations in 62 publications resulted in the following major characteristic solutions:

  1. The need to end two-year educational programs in nursing (so qualified faculty are then employed in higher degree nursing education programs)
  2. The establishment of nurse residency programs
  3. Removing barriers to advanced practice, so more nurses would enter higher degrees in nursing (thus, increasing the pool for qualified nursing faculty)
  4. Faculty salaries that compete with clinical practice salaries

All of these recommendations require an international focus to solve the existing barriers to increasing competent nursing faculty across the world.

Proposed Solutions

The conversation on solutions have continued via research, articles, advocacy, and statements by professional nursing associations and organizations. Although the shortage still exists, some of the suggestions and implementations might help reduce the nursing faculty shortage.

One interesting possibility is to utilize former military nurse officers (MNOs) as nurse faculty. Multigenerational, experienced, as well as racially, ethnically, and gender-diverse, their experience would bring plenty to nursing education. Moreover, many of these MNOs have graduate degrees they obtained during their service.

Going from the service roles to which MNOs are accustomed to nurse faculty roles requires a transition period and mentorship. One way this could be accomplished would be through a faculty military champion, which could make the transition smoother.

Another idea for alleviating the nursing faculty shortage is to inspire students to consider teaching. Research has indicated that providing BSN students with insight into the faculty role, as well as providing teaching experiences and encouragement may help students decide to pursue a faculty role.

And, just recently, the Future Advancement of Academic Nursing (FAAN) Act (S. 4396/H.R. 7945) was introduced by the Senate Nursing Caucus Co-Chair Jeff Merkley, along with Representatives Lauren Underwood and Eddie Bernice Johnson, both RNs.

The act would invest $1 billion in schools of nursing to, among other benefits, increase the number of nursing faculty by hiring and retaining a diverse faculty.

The AACN is encouraging the act be included in the next COVID-19 relief package.

What You can do About the Nursing Faculty Shortage

The nursing faculty shortage will not be resolved easily or quickly. But each step, no matter how small, can result in an improvement. Here’s what you can do to help:

  • If you are a nursing faculty member in any nursing education program, encourage your students to seriously consider a career as a nurse faculty member.
  • If you are a faculty member, be an ambassador for nurse faculty roles by participating in webinars, virtual convention presentations, and small group discussions for the public about the nursing faculty shortage and its impact on the future — not only on nursing but on the viability and quality of future healthcare for all of us.
  • Regardless of your role, you can support legislation that proposes relief for the nursing faculty shortage, such as the FAAN Act, by contacting your legislators and educating the public about legislation that supports nursing.
  • Whether you are a faculty member or a student, be open to changes in nursing education that will provide viable resolutions to the shortage.
  • If you are a nursing student, seriously evaluate the possibility of a career as a nursing faculty member after gaining required clinical experience.

Take these courses to learn more about home care:

Teaching Tomorrow’s Nurses
(1 contact hr)
As gatekeepers who ensure safe nursing practice, faculty members have a rich history of providing knowledge, teaching essential nursing skills and inspiring students to set high standards for patient care. Today’s faculty faces unparalleled challenges as they prepare students for increasingly complex nursing roles. Integrating new knowledge into the curriculum and using technology to enhance learning and preparing nurses to be lifelong learners offer educators opportunities to influence nursing’s future. This module discusses the innovative teaching strategies nurse educators are using to meet these challenges.

Who Will Teach Our Nurses?
(1 contact hr)
Our nation is in the midst of a significant nursing and nurse educator shortage. The good news is that applications to nursing programs, enrollment in programs, and numbers of graduates have increased during the past several years. The bad news is that despite several consecutive years of increased enrollment, too many qualified applicants are being turned away, mostly because of insufficient faculty. The growth of the aging population and sophisticated patient-care technology continue to drive the country’s need for more nurses.

Delineating Doctoral Degrees for Nurses
(1 contact hr)

A key element of the Future of Nursing report focused on the need to double the number of doctorate-prepared nurses by 2020. Attaining this recommendation is projected to affect other key suggestions of the report such as increased nurse commitment to lifelong learning, nurse empowerment to spearhead changes, and nurse enablement to collect and analyze healthcare data. In theory, this is a win-win situation. In reality, the doctorates earned need to align with professional goals and passions of the nurse to meet the needs of the nursing profession from the FON report.

About the Author:

Nancy J. Brent, MS, JD, RN
Our legal information columnist Nancy J. Brent, MS, JD, RN, concentrates her solo law practice in health law and legal representation, consultation, and education for healthcare professionals, school of nursing faculty and healthcare delivery facilities. Brent has conducted many seminars on legal issues and has published extensively in the area of law and nursing practice. She brings more than 40 years of experience to her role of legal information columnist. Her posts are designed for educational purposes only and are not to be taken as specific legal or other advice. Individuals who need advice on a specific incident or work situation should contact a nurse attorney or attorney in their state. 


  1. Avatar
    Deborah A Dawson, RN, CCRN (Ret) November 28, 2020 at 10:16 pm - Reply

    Not every RN has the time, money or desire to earn a doctorate.
    What we really need now are more competently prepared bedside nurses.
    Some know no basic nursing skills, yet they hold BSN’s MSN’s & higher.
    I refer to very basic nursing skills, such as getting air out of an IV tubing, inserting urinary catheters, simple assessments that should be done whenever receiving a patient, etc…

    • Avatar
      Janice L Wells RN OCN April 12, 2021 at 2:08 pm - Reply

      Hi Deborah,
      I am a retired nurse with two degrees an AS
      & ASN. I have extensive bedside skills. Oncology
      Certified etc. I worked impatient, & outpatient.
      Very skilled with peripheral & central lines and their care. As a prior chemotherapy nurse, I have worked for world renowned
      facilities. No advanced degree would have taught
      me these skills. Unfortunately although totally capable of teaching others, I probably fail the educational criteria for academic hire. What a shame to waste 27yrs of working knowledge because I did not acquire an advanced degree. I was too busy at the patient bedside, and raising two children alone, as a single parent. I’m sure I could offer instruction a two program in a nursing skills lab or at a BOCES program.

  2. Avatar
    Nancy November 29, 2020 at 6:29 am - Reply

    The nursing faculty shortage will continue as long as pay and benefits fail to keep up with other nursing salaries. Faculty with advanced degrees, national certifications, and years of experience earn less than a new graduate. Nursing faculty also have financial responsibilities as we all do, and shouldn’t have to sacrifice their financial future in order to pursue a teaching career.

  3. Avatar
    Cheryl November 29, 2020 at 7:12 am - Reply

    So, perhaps one of the issues is the schools themselves. I went for a faculty position. I got the position. However, I was not able to KEEP the position because I apparently missed a group of loans and owed money to the college I went to. They would not release my transcripts unless I paid off the loans first. I did not have the money and they refused to take payments. Hense, not a teacher

  4. Avatar
    Bonita Eckel November 29, 2020 at 8:34 am - Reply

    As a lifelong nurse I find this to be a very interesting and thought provoking article. I’ve worked in a wide variety of settings as well as with nurses of highly varied backgrounds. As such, I agree with three of the four solutions proposed. I do however disagree with the proposed solution of closing the two year programs to free up faculty to work in higher education. By closing two year programs we could be starting a new shortage of nurses. There are a large number of nurses graduated from 2 year programs who would not be nurses were it not for that particular program. Many students can not afford the time or money required to go straight into a higher education program. Thus the door would be shut to them and to all the jobs that they fill once graduated.

  5. Avatar
    Frances Hilliard November 29, 2020 at 1:59 pm - Reply

    As a retired nursing faculty member, the shortage of nurse educators concerns me. After I received my MSN, I made the choice to make a career in nursing education, despite the fact that I could have made considerably more money and put in far fewer hours had I done something in clinical practice. I absolutely loved what I did, but when you added up all the extra time I put in – making clinical assignments, grading papers, working on departmental and college-wide committees, etc – I probably did not even make the minimum wage. The salaries for nursing faculty must be improved in order to draw more nurses into education.

  6. Avatar
    Allison Wise November 29, 2020 at 6:20 pm - Reply

    I can solve the hospital staffing issue right now! Travel nurses make almost two times more than staff nurses make while doing the same job. New nurses work for about two years as a staff nurse and then pick up travel assignments making way more money. This leaves the hospital short staffed! Then the hospital hires more travelers! A never ending cycle. Solution is to pay your staff nurses the most you can pay them, respect them and treat them well. Problem solved.

  7. Avatar
    Joseph Treimel November 29, 2020 at 7:46 pm - Reply

    As a retired staff nurse with a baccalaureate degree and 40 years experience, I cannot recall ever seeing or hearing about active recruitment of nurses from hospitals or other types of practice to become nursing school faculty.
    I believe that a baccalaureate educated nurse would be ideal for teaching clinical nursing in the skills lab, the hospital, or other settings in which the new registered nurse might be employed.
    This leaves the masters degree nurses to teach in the classroom.
    If this makes sense, then nursing schools need to stop talking about the need for instructors and actively seek faculty for clinical instruction, and offer a competitive salary.

  8. Avatar
    Ruth Staus November 30, 2020 at 8:45 pm - Reply

    If we are serious about increasing advanced practice faculty ( NP, CNM, CRNA, CNS), then the salaries will need to approximate the salaries in clinical practice. I took a $50,000 salary cut to teach in a NP program and it has taken nearly 15 years to get to my previous salary. Nursing departments need to support our ongoing clinical practice which is necessary to maintaining licensure, certification, and clinical competence. Most NP faculty practice on top of their 50-60 hr a week teaching job. Add to that research, scholarly work, presentations, and publications. I love teaching but I am hard pressed to find a way to “sell” the current situation to prospective NP faculty. Academic nursing created this mess. It can, and must, be dismantled if we want this profession to survive.

  9. Avatar
    Linda Rosen December 13, 2020 at 4:42 pm - Reply

    I have to agree with Ruth. I received a position at a University after receiving my MSN in Community Health. I had been in practice for over 20 years My peers in the Nursing School treated me as an equal but the rest of the Faculty in other disciplines treated me as a lesser being . Most had Doctoral Degrees or had been tenured before a doctorate was required. I taught and attended a doctoral program in Nursing while raising my family. No matter what service I did the faculty of the University was not going to grant me tenure after being at the University for 7 years, sitting on many committees university wide, and writing and co-writing major reports. I was liked but didn’t make the grade. Luckily, the provost of the University saw my contributions and agreed to grant me tenure if I finished my dissertation and had a major publication. I accomplished both and received tenure. My journey was difficult, my pay was poor, and the hours were long. The Faculty committee of the University was quite upset by the Provost overriding their negative votes. I gained respect from others but was never compensated with money. A DNP can make more working with a Medical Practice than working at a University.

  10. Avatar
    Amiee January 28, 2021 at 2:28 pm - Reply

    The nursing shortage could be immediately remedied by looking at the plethora of RN’s, some or most with BSN, under discipline with the Nursing Boards that have ONE infraction, such as unprofessional conduct because they mis documented!!!! We have over a thousand or more nurses in the larger cities, even more, that could be looked at on a case-by-case bases. Sure if they were negligent and someone was hurt, or they were stealing medications….then of course, they would not be considered. Be aware that many nurses turned into the Boards are turned in by their own corporation (Hospital administration) This is a RED FLAG! Some Hospitals may have wanted to reduce the older nurse population or make room for new graduates that can make less money and take more patient load. Plus they may have wanted to eliminate older nurses because they would possibly be a health liability or they didn’t want to pay retirement. It is a scam as old as time….Or as long as they’ve had Boards that needed pay checks. Some nurses are turned into state boards out of vindictiveness, Corporate administrators have used the State Boards as a DUMPING GROUND for nurses who went against their grain. If you have a brain cell you can look at some determining factors…
    1. Was the nurse turned into the board by a patient /family or where they turned in by their hospital?
    2. How many years did the Nurse work a the Hospital that turned him/her in?
    3. Why did they turn the nurse in?
    4. Where there any blatant lies that could be proven by the nurse that were reasons for getting turned in to the Board?
    5. was there an incident prior to the nurse getting turned into the board, example, the nurse may have reported an incident, the nurse may have been sexually assaulted, the nurse may have just not been liked by the supervisor/administrator/charge nurse. or maybe the nurse had a family member that complained about the hospital…. Ive heard many reasons.
    6. RED FLAGGGGG the nurse was turned in for miss documenting on the MAR possibly improper waste of narcotic, late return of narcotics, or may have had a discrepancy in the pyxis(which happens a lot in critical care)
    It’s real real easy for any hospital to turn in a nurse, human error is expected when documenting, or forgetting to document waste after an intense CODE BLUE. If a hospital wants to GET RID of you for any reason, guess wherethe nurse goes? STATE BOARD!
    5. Did the nurse have more than one infraction? (because one infraction if it is for example, “miss documentation” only, then they could be considered to re-enter the nursing work force.

  11. Avatar
    Biji Georgy March 15, 2021 at 9:53 pm - Reply

    I strongly agree that one of the main reasons for faculty position shortage is the nursing faculty’s underpayment. Most of the bedside RN’s with a Baccalaureate level of nursing education are making a lot more than the Masterly prepared nursing faculty. It’s shameful to say, but that is the truth!

  12. Avatar
    Cas Megibben November 15, 2021 at 2:04 pm - Reply

    So in 2020, I completed my MSN in Nursing Education. I worked in an ICU at the start of the pandemic. I threw my resume out there, and the initial calls came from different universities. Top income offer was roughly $60k a year. I was making much more than that in the ICU. I started applying to different health care facilities, and eventually took a salary position making $95k a year. Other facilities offered roughly $75k.

    So here is the problem with the nurse faculty shortage…..

    There are multiple universities where their major income is the nursing program, yet the money does not return back towards that program. Educators are underpaid, equipment is usually outdated, hours are long, and dealing with these kids is migraine inducing. There is no incentive to teach new nursing students.

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