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How Nursing Education Will Determine the Direction of Healthcare

The healthcare system at large has been under severe strain for many years. One of the critical reasons for this stress has been the nursing shortages reported throughout the country, which the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated. Moreover, without enough teachers to educate future nurses, this shortage will worsen, further impacting the ability of the system to keep up with illnesses and injuries.

While the situation may seem dire, the availability of online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs with a concentration in Nursing Education, like that offered at William Paterson University (WPU), allows for an increase in nurse educators. As a result, nurses interested in pursuing a career as an educator can earn an MSN – Nursing Education degree in as few as 12 months and begin preparing a new generation of nurses.

How Significant Are Nurse Shortages?

Nurse shortages have been a concern for years and stem from a number of issues; one example is the impact on the nursing workforce of retiring Baby Boomers in high numbers. In 2011, the first Baby Boomers turned 65, says the U.S. Census Bureau, and every year until 2030, an additional 10K will reach the same milestone. As this generation of nurses exits the workforce, a steady stream of new nursing graduates must be ready to replace them and provide care for the aging population overall.

According to a 2019 study published in the American Journal of Medical Quality, the culmination of these events will result in “significant RN workforce shortages throughout the country in 2030,” leading to a “total national deficit” of more than 900K nurses. The study further explains that “the number of states receiving a grade of ‘D’ or ‘F’ for their RN shortage ratio rose from 5 in 2009 to 30 by 2030.”

However, due to changes brought on by the pandemic, these projections probably underestimate nursing shortages. Some nurses have retired earlier than expected or transitioned to non-patient-facing roles or other careers. This change has driven demand for nurses as a whole and resulted in a specific and critical need for bedside nurses — precisely those positions typically filled by newly-graduated nurses where they gain a wide range of patient experience.

How Significant Are Nurse Educator Shortages?

Nurse educator shortages may further limit the number of new nursing graduates. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) estimates nearly 1,500 vacant nurse educator positions throughout the country, primarily fueled by older educators retiring and nursing program expansions to accommodate growing student demand. In 2019 alone, says AACN, nursing schools turned away more than 80K qualified applicants primarily due to a lack of faculty.

How Must Nursing Education Evolve to Meet the Rising Demand?

To meet the rising demand for nurses, nursing education must evolve. More nurses should consider a career in nursing education so schools can expand their program offerings. Ideally, these nurses will come from all walks of life. Diversity among educators enhances student learning by offering different viewpoints, which can attract a broader range of potential nursing students.

Nurse educators must prepare nurses to work at the top of their scope of practice, collaboratively and with precision. They should continuously develop curricula that reflect current care environments and carve out teachable moments, often drawing from real-life challenges and experiences.

Today’s nurses must strike a balance between technology and patient care. Going forward, telehealth and remote monitoring will likely encompass a more significant share of patient care, just as schools will use simulation and e-learning exercises more frequently. Nurse educators must ensure graduates are technologically proficient while remaining patient-centered and evidence-based.

Ultimately, nursing education must undergo tremendous changes to meet the needs of a modern healthcare system. From revising curricula to incorporating more effective clinical and classroom teaching strategies, the future of healthcare depends on forward-thinking nurse educators. William Paterson University’s online MSN – Nursing Education program coursework empowers graduates with the skills to confidently lead the next generation of nurses in the classroom.

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

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