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


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.

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