California State University Feels the Pain of Nurse Faculty Shortage

Dec 5, 2013, 9:00 AM

Mirroring national trends, the California State University (CSU) system is turning away qualified nursing school applicants due to faculty shortages, reports the Los Angeles Daily News, and CSU officials fear that the situation will worsen the nurse shortage in a state that already has one of the country’s lowest numbers of nurses per capita.

This fall, CSU Long Beach had a nursing program acceptance rate of 18 percent, having received 450 applications for 82 slots. CSU Northridge had a “very highly qualified” pool of 300 applicants but could only accept 60. CSU Chico had to turn down 86 percent of its fully qualified applicants, while CSU San Marcos turned away nearly 89 percent.

“Let me put it this way, we have over 1,200 pre-nursing students,” Dwight Sweeney, interim chairman of nursing at CSU San Bernardino, told the Daily News. “I can only take about 108 a year. In the fall, we had over 600 applicants for 44 positions. Realistically, we are turning away people with 3.6 and 3.7 GPAs. And I think that story is playing out on CSU campuses everywhere.”

CSU officials are concerned that the system’s average salary for new nursing faculty members ($70,929 in 2011) isn’t competitive with the average salary for nurses in the state ($89,940, according to a 2012 RN survey conducted by the University of California, San Francisco).

“The problem is, you have to find someone who’s a good clinician, with an educational background, to make it through the tenure process, and you expect them to take less money to do so,” Sweeney said.

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), U.S. nursing schools turned away 75,587 qualified applicants from baccalaureate and graduate programs in 2011, with nearly two-thirds of nursing schools surveyed citing faculty shortages as a reason for not accepting all qualified applicants into entry-level baccalaureate programs. In 2012, AACN reported that faculty vacancies totaled nearly 1,200 at 662 nursing schools.

In 2011-2012, the CSU system, which offers nursing programs at 20 of its 23 campuses, awarded 2,575 bachelor of science in nursing degrees and 709 master of science in nursing degrees.

Read the Los Angeles Daily News article.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Human Capital Blog. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors.