Rounds with Leadership: Focusing on the Future of Faculty

America is in the midst of a long-standing crisis threatening the supply, education, and training of registered nurses – a severe shortage of nurse faculty and clinical preceptors. Too few nurses are available and willing to serve in these vital but under-appreciated roles, stifling the development of a well-prepared nursing workforce and hindering the preparation of the next generation of the nursing profession.

National Advisory Council on Nursing Education and Practice (NACNEP)

The opening lines of NACNEP’s 2021 Report to Congress serve as a sobering call to action for leaders in academic nursing. For more than two decades, schools of nursing nationwide have experienced an unrelenting shortage of faculty, which has frustrated efforts to meet nursing workforce needs. AACN has led the effort to document the impact of the shortage and help legislators see the direct connection between faculty supply and having enough nurses to keep patients safe.

Though quantifying the faculty shortage is essential to shaping policy, understanding the drivers behind the data holds promise for developing strategies to bridge the gap.  Following the Academic Nursing Leadership Conference in Fall 2022, AACN hosted an invitational summit to explore issues related to the recruitment and retention of faculty. Deans from 20 nursing schools joined with AACN Board and staff leaders for a discussion of the key challenges related to the faculty shortage and possible solutions to those challenges.

Themes from the conversation included the need to recruit younger and more diverse faculty, faculty development in the teaching role, leveraging academic-practice partnerships, and adapting accreditation standards. This generative discussion also surfaced a host of critical concerns that must be addressed as we consider the future of the professoriate.  Questions raised by the group include:

  • Are expectations for the nurse faculty role – teaching, research, scholarship, and service – too far-reaching?
  • Are we being intentional about creating a diverse and inclusive faculty population? What more should we be doing?
  • Is the faculty role attractive as a career option for the next generation of students pursing graduate nursing education?
  • What is the best way to prepare nurse educators to teach?

Unraveling these issues is important to understanding the facilitators and barriers to creating a robust supply of nurse faculty.

To help expand the dialogue that commenced at this event, AACN has prepared a Summary Report on the Future of Faculty Forum, which has an overview of the faculty shortage including the latest data, steps for building a shared understanding of the challenges before us, and strategies for boosting faculty supply.  Recommendations for AACN include:

  • Advocate for changes to accreditation standards that will help schools negotiate for needed faculty resources.
  • Review the annual survey and faculty vacancy survey to determine if a more stratified data collection approach can be implemented to better inform planning for action and decision-making.
  • Continue to advocate for funding to support the faculty workforce, share data that members can use to benchmark and advocate for positions within their institutions, and share effective strategies that schools have used to support the faculty workforce.
  • Collaborate with practice organizations, including the American Organization for Nursing Leadership, to address challenges to meeting workforce needs.
  • Identify opportunities to offer conference sessions and webinars focused on best practices related to successful partnerships.

The Future of Faculty Forum provided a fresh opportunity to amplify the national dialogue on ways to mitigate the faculty shortage and generate strong interest in faculty careers. Together we will continue to seek answers and advance solutions needed to fortify the nurse educator role.