Rounds with Leadership: Bridging the Nurse Faculty Shortage

Published October 25, 2017

Welcome to Rounds with Leadership, a new forum for AACN’s Board Chair and President/CEO to offer commentary on issues and trends impacting academic nursing.

“Without enough faculty members to teach the next generation of health professionals, the nation’s health infrastructure is in jeopardy” (Moskowitz, 2007, p. 1).  This dire assessment by the Association of Academic Health Centers (AAHC) is as relevant today as it was when the AAHC’s survey of health system CEOs was released a decade ago.

Within academic nursing, the faculty shortage has been well documented (Berlin & Sechrist, 2002; Yordy, 2006; Allan & Aldebron, 2008) and is reaching a critical juncture. New data show that one-third of the rapidly aging nurse faculty workforce is projected to retire by 2025 (Fang & Kesten, 2017). This finding, based on data compiled by AACN, should serve as a call to action to leaders in nursing education and practice to seek out new ways for preparing the faculty needed to teach, generate research, and innovate clinical practice.

Fresh approaches to preparing nursing faculty are emerging on many fronts.  In the report Advancing Healthcare Transformation: A New Era for Academic Nursing (AACN, 2016), the authors urge closer collaboration among educators and practice leaders to meet priority concerns. The report specifically calls for stakeholders to rethink who can serve as faculty and how faculty might work together. Schools are increasingly working with clinical staff in expanded teaching roles, such as expert nurses who serve as clinical teaching staff in Dedicated Education Units under the mentoring and supervision of academic faculty (Nishioka, Coe, Hanita, & Moscato, 2014). Many schools pay clinical agencies for graduate-prepared nurses to serve as faculty members, while others give academic appointments to clinicians with advanced academic and experiential credentials.  Others hire faculty who are not nurses but are prepared to teach relevant and important content areas such as statistics, pharmacology, and behavioral, and natural sciences.  This practice has the added benefit of advancing an interprofessional perspective in nursing education. Still others intentionally share faculty roles across academic units to give students a more comprehensive, interprofessional experience.

In addition, accelerated doctoral programs such as BSN-DNP and BSN-PhD tracks make it possible for graduates to begin careers prepared at the terminal level early in their careers. AACN recommends that students who wish to take on faculty roles complete courses in nursing education in addition to their advanced clinical preparation (in DNP programs) or advanced research preparation (in PhD programs).  Honors options and graduate assistantships provide students with exposure to the faculty role and help students understand the opportunities available in these roles.

At the state level, innovative programs have been implemented to provide support to students and post-doctoral fellows who are preparing for faculty roles.  Two recent examples include faculty preparation programs in New Jersey (Geralamo, Conroy, Roemer, Holmes, Salmond, & Polakowski, 2017; Gerolamo, Overcash, McGovern, Roemer, and Bakewell-Sachs, 2014) and Wisconsin (Young, Adams, Lundeen, May, Smith, & Wendt, 2016). More programs like these must be implemented at the local level to help remove barriers to faculty careers.

Effectively addressing the faculty shortage requires the collective effort of all stakeholders, including schools of nursing, legislators, practice leaders, corporate citizens, and consumers. AACN is working to mitigate the shortage by advocating for new federal legislation and increased funding for graduate level nursing education; coordinating a scholarship program with the Jonas Center for Nursing and Veterans Healthcare to increase the population of doctorally prepared faculty; offering the Minority Nurse Faculty Scholarship Program funded by the Johnson & Johnson Campaign for Nursing’s Future;  hosting faculty development conferences, webinars,  and professional development opportunities for new nurse educators; collecting and publishing data to quantify the scope of the shortage and its impact on student enrollments; and identifying and disseminating strategies to address this shortage via AACN’s publications and communication channels. 

As leaders in academic nursing, we need to do more to attract nurses to faculty roles, including addressing salary differentials between academia and clinical environments. One promising strategy is increasing opportunities for faculty practice. Those with creative approaches to addressing the nursing faculty shortage are encouraged to share their success stories with colleagues and let us know how AACN can magnify this important work. 

References

Allan, J., & Aldebron, J. (2008) A systematic assessment of strategies to address the nursing faculty shortage, U.S. Nursing Outlook, 56(6), 286-297.

American Association of Colleges of Nursing. (2016). Advancing health care transformation: A new era for academic nursing.  Washington, DC: Author. Accessible online at www.aacnnursing.org/Portals/42/Publications/AACN-New-Era-Report.pdf?ver=2017-07-13-213115-553

Berlin, L.E., & Sechrist, K.R. (2002a). The shortage of doctorally prepared nursing faculty: a dire situation. Nursing Outlook, 50 (2), 50-56. 

Fang, D., & Kesten, K.  (2017). Retirements and succession of nursing faculty in 2016-2025.  Nursing Outlook, 65, 633-642.  doi:10.1016/j.outlook.2017.03.003.

Gerolamo, A.M., Conroy, K., Roemer, G., Holmes, A., Salmond, S., & Polakowski, J.    (2017).  Long-term outcomes of the New Jersey nurse faculty preparation program scholars.  Nursing Outlook, 65, 643-651.  dx.doi.org/10.101016/j.outlook.2014.04.005.

Gerolamo, A.M., Overcash, A., McGovern, J., Roemer, G., & Bakewell-Sachs, S.  (2014). Who will educate our nurses?  A strategy to address the nurse faculty shortage in New Jersey.  Nursing Outlook, 62, 275-284.  dx.doi.org/10.101016/j.outlook.2014.04.005.

Moskowitz, M.C. (2007).  Academic health center CEOs say faculty shortages major problem. Accessible online at www.aahcdc.org/Portals/41/Series/Issue-Briefs/Faculty_Shortages_Major_Problem.pdf.

Nishioko, V.M., Coe, M.T., Hanita, M. & Moscato, S.R.  (2014).  Dedicated Education Unit: Nurse perspectives on their clinical teaching role.  Nursing Education Perspectives, 35, 394-200.

Yordy, K.D. (2006). The Nursing Faculty Shortage: A Crisis for Health Care. Accessible online at https://www.rwjf.org/content/dam/farm/reports/reports/2006/rwjf13795

Young, L.K., Adams, J.L., Lundeen, S. May, K.A., Smith, R., & Wendt, L.E.  (2016). Nurses for Wisconsin: A collaborative initiative to enhance the nurse educator workforce.  Journal of Professional Nursing, 32, 292-299.  doi:10.1016/j.profnurs.2015.11.002