Are Nursing Instructors an Endangered Species?

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Are Nursing Instructors an Endangered Species?

Advanced degree requirements can be a hurdle

By Elizabeth Hanink, RN, BSN, PHN
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The nation’s ongoing nursing shortage may come down not to the number of nurses, but the number of nurse educators. Although many nursing schools have as many students as they can currently handle, qualified nursing faculty remains in short supply.

Reasons for the Shortage

Several factors continue to discourage nurses from pursuing careers as nurse educators.

One major concern is that salaries are significantly higher in clinical settings than in academia, which is part of why the vast majority of nurses continue to work in hospitals and long-term care facilities rather than pursuing teaching positions.

Another factor is that faculty positions require graduate degrees, which are challenging to achieve without stepping out of the workforce for extended periods. Nurses who must also balance family obligations such as child care are often limited to part-time study, further extending the time it takes to complete an advanced degree program. Furthermore, the profession itself encourages nurses to gain clinical experience before advancing their education.

Turning the Tide

A number of organizations are working to increase the number of nurse educators. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Nurse Faculty Scholars and Future of Nursing Scholars programs, for example, provide scholarships, stipends, mentoring for leadership development and post-doctoral research support for nurses pursuing academic careers.

Those efforts are bearing fruit. Andrea Higham, director of corporate equity at Johnson & Johnson, wrote in a recent company newsletter that they have “definitely seen an increase in the number of people going for advanced degrees.”

Nonetheless, nursing still has a desperate need for qualified teachers. So, if you can, stay in school — the profession needs you. As the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation puts it, “Take the time to inspire one mind and you might inspire a thousand more.”

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