Texas is not immune to the nursing shortages that plague the nation, partly due to a lack of nursing faculty who can educate the next generation of nurses. Since nurse and nurse educator shortages are linked, a review of both shortages can be helpful. Here are the details for each, throughout the nation and in Texas itself.
Rising Demand for Licensed Nurses
According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the demand for licensed nurses will grow substantially through 2022, increasing at a rate of 19.4 percent. Between job growth and the replacement of nurses who retire or leave the workforce, nearly 1.1 million new nurses will be necessary by 2022.
Multiple factors contribute to the rising demand. A shift toward an older population is underway, according to this U.S. Census Bureau study. Baby Boomers, who will constitute a fifth of the population by 2029, are likely to require higher levels of care, especially for the complex and chronic health conditions that tend to accompany aging. The need for competent nurses to enter the workforce and provide this care is pressing. Moreover, the population as a whole will become significantly more ethnically and culturally diverse. Besides being able to care for an older patient population, nurses will need to provide culturally competent care too.
Together, these factors influence the demand for qualified nurses and contribute to the potential shortage, further reinforcing the importance of faculty who can prepare future nurses for patient care challenges that show no signs of abating.
Is Texas Experiencing a Nursing Shortage?
The Nurse Supply and Demand Projections, 2015-2030 report by the Texas Center for Nursing Workforce Studies found that the demand for licensed nurses will exceed supply each year from 2015-2030. In 2015, the shortfall was just under 15,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) nurses. By 2030, nurse demand will balloon by 53.8 percent while supply will only grow at 35.4 percent, creating a shortfall of almost 60,000 FTE nurses.
Rising Demand for Nursing Faculty
The nation’s widespread nursing faculty shortages contribute in no small measure to nursing shortages. A 2015-2016 survey by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) found 1,328 full-time faculty vacancies at AACN Member Schools — approximately three per school surveyed. Evaluated by region, the southern states, including Texas, had the second-highest vacancy rate at 9.4 percent.
The schools surveyed indicated several barriers to the hiring of additional full-time faculty. Twenty-two percent said their geographic area lacks qualified applicants, and more than a third cited marketplace competition as a factor.
These vacancies have left schools with no choice but to turn away thousands of prospective nursing candidates, further exacerbating the nursing shortage. In the 2014-2015 academic year alone, the AACN reported that 68,936 qualified applicants were denied entry into nursing programs, with insufficient faculty listed among the top reasons. This data includes the more than 15,000 applicants turned away from master’s and doctoral programs, which qualify candidates to teach at the collegiate level.
Current nursing faculty are also nearing retirement within the next decade, and as evidenced by the faculty vacancies, their replacement rate is lagging. A 2013-2014 AACN study found that the average age for master’s degree-prepared professors was 57.1 years. For doctorally prepared professors, the average age was 61.6 years.
Is Texas Experiencing a Nursing Faculty Shortage?
Besides the projected nursing shortage, Texas is also experiencing a nursing faculty shortage, which has worsened over the past decade. Mirroring nationwide statistics, more Texas faculty members are nearing retirement. According to 2016 data from the AACN, the average age of Texas nursing faculty is 54 years. In addition, the number of faculty vacancies in the state has steadily grown since at least 2006 — jumping almost 180 percent between 2006 and 2015 â€” further contributing to the licensed nurse shortage.
Without enough nurse educators, schools will likely have to continue rejecting program applicants, which will result in smaller numbers of graduates and, consequently, a diminishing nurse supply. Nursing and nursing faculty shortages may remain prominent issues in healthcare for years. Ideally, more nurses will take up the mantle of the advanced education required for faculty appointments, such as a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) in Nursing Education degree.
Become a Nurse Educator
Nursing faculty play an instrumental role in producing future generations of nurses who can meet the healthcare needs of a rapidly changing population. Like other states across the nation, Texas needs qualified nursing faculty to fill an increasing and unprecedented number of vacancies. With more educators in place, nursing programs can accept more candidates and, ultimately, meet the surging demand for nurses.
Learn more about the UTRGV online MSN — Education program.
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