Healthcare workers are all too familiar with the nursing shortage. Even before the pandemic, hospitals struggled to keep up with the demand to hire enough nurses for safe staff-patient ratios. Now the country is struggling to produce nursing students.
One California city college had more than 1200 applicants to their associate’s degree nursing program, however, they were only able to accept 32 of those applicants. That is only 3% of applications where half of the class may potentially drop out. Some colleges aren’t accepting students at all until Fall 2021. The reason? Health protocols are limiting in-person instruction and nursing instructors are quitting or nearing retirement.
And that’s just the beginning. Lack of funding, nursing instructor salaries, and availability of instructors have also played a major role in the inability to produce more nurses. In California, the average nursing instructor salary was reported to be approximately $40,000 less than the starting salary of a nurse.
With all the limitations on instruction, nursing students have had to rely on computer simulation, mannequins, and video training. Hands-on training is critical to a nursing student’s success in the program. It’s what builds the foundation for our nursing practice. With the absence of hands-on skills, there is a concern for new grads as this may interfere with studying for and passing board licensing exams.
Ultimately, the bottom line is patient and staff safety. Fewer nursing students mean no new grads to fill the gap of retiring veterans. No new nurses and support mean more patients per nurse. We all know, when the ratio isn’t safe, error and death rates increase leading to a higher rate of burnout and turnover.
My questions: How do we produce quality competent nurses who are able to get the education they deserve without compromising the profession or patients? How do we get funding for institutions to accept more applicants and keep up with the demand of the nursing shortage in the United States? How do we inspire nursing students to continue their education to replace the nurses nearing retirement and those who have left the profession?
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