How Nurse Educators Help Community Colleges Address the Nursing Shortage

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the country was already experiencing a significant nursing shortage. The aging Baby Boomer generation requires more care for chronic conditions, and nurses of that same generation are entering retirement. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed the healthcare field to its brink, and it is increasingly difficult to maintain sufficient nursing staff as burnout and fatigue cause nurses to step away from medicine.

As a result, many nursing programs have made tremendous efforts to expand their nursing degree options to accommodate more students. Still, a lack of qualified educators has hampered the process. Since most Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) graduates come from community colleges, these institutions are critical in resupplying the nursing workforce. ADN-prepared nurses are then equipped to earn advanced degrees and bolster the healthcare field by completing a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program in nursing education. Graduates of such programs are equipped to serve in a number of nursing education settings including community colleges, thereby helping alleviate the nursing shortage.

How Substantial Is the Nursing Shortage?

The American Nurses Association (ANA) estimates that more than 500K registered nurses (RNs) will retire by 2022 — a conservative estimate as the pandemic has prompted waves of early retirements. Again by 2022, says the ANA, “there will be far more registered nurse jobs available than any other profession, at more than 100,000 per year,” resulting in “the need for 1.1 million new RNs for expansion and replacement of retirees, and to avoid a nursing shortage.”

Are There Enough Nurse Educators?

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), “the United States is facing a persistent nursing faculty shortage” with nearly 1500 vacant teaching positions in 2020 alone, leaving some degree programs unable to accommodate additional students and contributing “to the loss of qualified nursing talent.”

Nursing faculty shortages are probably more significant than reported, especially as nursing programs expand enrollment and require more nurse educators to meet demand. In the past, instructor shortages have caused nursing programs to turn away qualified applicants or rely on admission lottery systems, further restricting supply. As reported by EdSource, there has been a push to pass legislation to provide supplemental funding for nursing programs, which will assist institutions in hiring more instructors, expanding clinical sites and producing more nursing graduates.

Why Are Community Colleges Attractive to Students?

Community colleges are critical in preparing nursing graduates, and a 2021 National Academy of Medicine report recently recognized their contributions. In the 2019-2020 school year, community colleges awarded 75% of all ADN degrees, says the AACN.

Prospective students, especially adult learners, often prefer the two-year degree programs at community colleges, as they allow students to segue into their new career more quickly. Lower tuition costs, flexible formats including online options and better school-life balance are additional factors that contribute to the growing popularity of community colleges.

How Can Nurses Pursue a Career in Nursing Education?

Individuals interested in nurse educator careers must complete graduate-level coursework and typically earn an MSN degree with a concentration in nursing education. William Paterson University’s online Master of Science in Nursing – Nursing Education program prepares nurses to enter the classroom ready to mentor the next generation of ADN-seeking students.

The affordable program offers an accelerated format that students can complete in as few as 12 months. Coursework covers the fundamentals of curriculum development, clinical and classroom teaching strategies and the role of advanced practice nursing in modern healthcare delivery systems.

Community colleges are an asset in nursing education. They provide affordable degree programs ideal for adult learners and help address the nursing shortage by maintaining a steady supply of ADN-prepared nursing graduates who can go on to complete a Bachelor of Science in Nursing online.

Learn more about William Paterson University’s online MSN – Nursing Education program.

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