Solve the Nursing Shortage by Solving the Faculty Shortage


While the United States has grappled with a nursing shortage for many years, a new wrinkle has emerged that affects the shortage even further.

A lack of nursing faculty at colleges and universities across the country — including the Dallas-Fort Worth area — has created another ripple. Fewer faculty mean fewer seats for students in classes whose size are regulated by accrediting agencies for nursing.

Fewer faculty mean fewer seats for students in classes whose size are regulated by accrediting agencies.

Nursing schools rejected almost 69,000 qualified applicants from four-year nursing institutions in 2014 because of a faculty shortage, according to a report from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing,

The situation at community colleges is similar.

The National League for Nursing reported in 2012 that associate degree in nursing programs rejected 45 percent of qualified applicants, citing challenges “attracting and retaining qualified nurse faculty.”

Nursing programs that are dealing with a faculty shortage cannot keep up with the demand for classes and clinicals. As a result, students are placed on waiting lists (or they are forced to reapply), and the shortage continues to grow.

Dr. Juanita Flint with a nursing student at Brookhaven College.

Dr. Juanita Flint with a nursing student at Brookhaven College. (Photo: DCCCD)

Those types of situations prompt educational institutions like Brookhaven, El Centro, and Mountain View colleges in the Dallas County Community College District system to look for other ways to attract faculty and enroll more students who meet the requirements for their nursing programs.

Innovation and better salaries are part of the strategy; flexibility in scheduling classes, along with providing work hours in health care, also help bring more faculty into the classroom to teach more nursing students. While filling (nursing) faculty positions is difficult, there are ways to bring instructors to teach at Brookhaven College.

Pay drives hiring, and DCCCD has made good strides with stipends and the way the college structures classes. We like to hire nurse practitioners and let them have days to practice. As a result, they get their wages for teaching, plus a stipend, and they also can teach extra courses — and even work a couple of months in the summer.

One of my colleagues, Cherlyn Shultz-Ruth, interim dean of nursing at Mountain View College, said that nurses don’t make as much money teaching as they do as nurses, but nursing is hard work.

Almost 28,000 nurses already work in Dallas County, but at least 4,000 more are needed immediately.

Standing up for 12-hour shifts and dealing with heavy patient loads can influence nurses to teach, which brings more faculty into the classroom and offers more opportunities for qualified students to enroll.

Joan Becker, executive dean for El Centro’s nursing program, DCCCD’s largest, receives more than 400 applications from students for only 120 spots. Mountain View’s program accepts 40 students each fall from among the 60 to 100 applications they receive.

Almost 28,000 nurses already work in Dallas County, but at least 4,000 more are needed immediately, according to recent figures from Economic Modeling Specialists International — and that number is going to increase.

The AACN report also noted that a significant number of nurses are nearing retirement age, and the nation’s growing older population also will increase the demand for more nurses.

Solving the nursing faculty shortage using innovative and flexible approaches is one direct, effective way to help the nation solve its nursing shortage.

Our nursing programs at Brookhaven, El Centro, and Mountain View colleges all are using strategic approaches to recruit and retain nursing faculty in order to increase the number of nursing students who will treat all of us in doctors’ offices, hospitals, and other health care facilities across the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

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Juanita Flint, Ph.D has been a registered nurse for 44 years. She also is a nurse practitioner. She currently is executive dean of health and human services at Brookhaven College in Farmers Branch/Dal(...)