(Houston Chronicle) Nurses continue to be in high demand, yet nursing schools are struggling to find enough nursing educators to fill the teaching positions so enrollment can be increased to meed demand. “There is a misconception about there being a shortage of nursing educators, because there really isn’t. The problem is to teach in a nursing school, nurses need a master’s and/or doctorate degree. Those with higher degrees are offered much higher salaries in clinical/medical settings than public universities and colleges can offer,” said Pamela G. Watson, RN, dean and professor, School of Nursing, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston.
Brian Waddle, with Coleman College for Health Sciences, Houston Community College, Houston, agreed.
“There is a structural salary gap within higher education that turns a lot of potential nurse educators away, but there is also a small pool of talent from which to hire. There is a special blend of nursing expertise combined with teaching experience that is required to serve as a nursing facul
ty member,” Waddle said.
Another challenge public universities and colleges have is the state sets the ceiling on tuition.
“Private universities have it a little easier because there is no ceiling on tuition, so public institutions are at a disadvantage. There are a lot of people available to teach – we simply cannot pay them,” Watson said.
“There are many students in high school, and those already graduated who are interested in going into nursing, which would ease the nursing shortage. But due to lack of educators, we are not able to admit all those who meet the criteria.”
Another challenge the country will see in 2014 is nurse practitioners will be the front-line medical staff seeing patients since there is expected to be a shortage of doctors.
“With the Affordable Care Act, everyone in the country will have insurance and will want to go to the doctor. We do not have the educators to train the PAs, so we will be looking at another country-wide shortage,” Watson said.
HCC is addressing the shortage of nursing educators through the use of part-time faculty working in clinical teaching environments. Full-time faculty can then concentrate on curriculum-based instruction and skill-building capacities.
“Also, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board offers funding to higher education institutions to help extend the available faculty resources through the use of technology and simulation. Recruitment efforts are ongoing and extend throughout Texas and nationally,” Waddle said.
UTMB’s efforts to encourage nurses to move into education include retention programs, and programs that promote the importance of educating the next generation of nurses, enriching young minds and their education experiences.
Watson said if she had more funds, she would double the 65 teaching positions she presently needs to 130, over and above the eight vacancies she presently has.
“If we had this number of nursing faculty in place we could expand the number of nursing students we could take, and we would be able to teach and graduate more PAs, but the funds simply are not available,” Watson said.
“People like me, in management positions in nursing schools, worry about the shortage of nursing educators,” Watson said. “Nursing educators are important, they change our communities, they change our lives through those they teach, and without them many challenges may lay ahead.”