Published August 17, 2021
Registered Nurses (RNs) are one of the fastest growing groups of health professionals, with projected growth of 7 percent from 2019 to 2029 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. To keep up with this growth, more nursing faculty will be needed to educate new nurses. However, the United States is facing a persistent nursing faculty shortage according to survey data from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN). Data collected from the 2020 AACN Faculty Vacancy Survey revealed that there were approximately 1,492 vacant positions in 2020. While the national vacancy rate has decreased slightly from 2016 to 2020, the vacancy rate in the southern region of the U.S has remained relatively stagnant, with little improvement (Figure 1). In 2020 and in previous years, the West had the highest regional vacancy rate, particularly due to Alaska and Wyoming (Figure 2). Figure 2 shows that Alaska and Wyoming had the highest faculty vacancy rates in the U.S, with 30 and 20.8 percent respectively.
Although the national faculty vacancy rate has declined slightly, a looming faculty shortage persists. Results from the 2020 AACN Annual Survey revealed that nursing schools rejected 66,274 nursing applications for entry into a generic baccalaureate program. Nursing programs in western and southern states have the highest rejection rates for these qualified applications. The top reason for not offering admission to all applicants was insufficient clinical sites (n=254). However, in 2020, almost half of generic baccalaureate nursing programs reported rejecting qualified applications due to an insufficient number of faculty. Of these programs, about 72 percent report being unable to hire additional faculty due to insufficient funds (Figure 3). This shortage of nursing faculty continues to be a top concern, as it contributes to the loss of qualified nursing talent.
For more information on the nursing shortage and the faculty shortage, click here.
Figure 1. Trends in Nursing Faculty Vacancies (2016-2020)
Figure 2. U.S Map of 2020 Nursing Faculty Vacancy Rates, By State
Figure 3. Top Reasons for Insufficient Faculty in Generic Baccalaureate Programs (2020)