New data from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) on the number of nursing school faculty vacancies finds an end to a multi-year trend toward fewer vacancies. In fact, the number of nurse faculty vacancies increased last year.
Released in September, AACN’s survey found a total of 880 faculty vacancies at 556 nursing schools with baccalaureate and/or graduate programs. That represented a 6.9 percent vacancy rate for the year, up from last year’s rate of 6.6 percent. From 2007 to 2009, the vacancy rate declined from 8.8 percent to 6.6 percent, before inching up this year.
U.S. nursing schools turned away some 54,991 qualified student applicants in 2009, even as the nation faced a mounting shortage in practicing nurses. Almost two-thirds of nursing schools responding to AACN’s survey this year laid some of the blame for turning away so many would-be nurses on faculty shortages that prevented the schools from admitting as many entry-level baccalaureate students as intended.
Those shortages are themselves partly the result of faculty shortages at the doctoral and master’s levels. According to the schools, more than half of the vacant teaching positions (55.5 percent) required a doctorate degree, and either a doctorate or a master’s degree was required or preferred for another two-fifths (43.9 percent) of the positions. But there are not enough advanced-degree nurses to meet the demand, and nearly a third of schools (30.4 percent) said that the limited pool of would-be faculty with doctorates was a major barrier to filling vacancies. Virtually the same number of schools cited non-competitive salaries as a barrier (30.2 percent).
“Moving to prepare more nurses with doctoral degrees must be a priority for the profession if we are to meet the nation’s expanding need for nurse faculty, researchers and primary care providers,” says AACN President Kathleen Potempa, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N. “With the faculty shortage expected to balloon over the next 10 years and the demand for expert nurses increasing in response to health care reform, policy-makers and other stakeholders must take decisive action now to maximize enrollment in graduate nursing programs.”
Improving nursing education and dramatically increasing the number of nurses with advanced degrees is a key finding of The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health—a new report from the Institute of Medicine, supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). The report calls for more nurses to pursue higher degrees and sets a goal to double the number of nurses with doctoral degrees by the year 2020. Several RWJF programs, including the New Jersey Nursing Initiative and the Nurse Faculty Scholars program, are addressing the shortage of nurse faculty.