What Colleges Are Doing to Address Nursing Shortages

To help address the increasing nursing shortage, colleges have taken action in several ways. The following is a look at some of the strategies nursing schools have put into place to help increase the workforce.

1. Creating New Programs

To help boost the nursing workforce in their states, some schools are creating new degree programs to attract more students and close certain gaps present in the care being delivered in their communities. For example, to mitigate the problem of women’s health deficiencies in Florida, Keiser University launched a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP) master’s degree program last year. The program is designed to help ensure that women around the state, particularly in rural areas, are able to access the unique preventive health services they need.

Similarly, St. John’s University in New York was granted approval by the state to offer a new Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program, and the inaugural cohort began in January 2023. The new degree program was created in part because of the increased demand for nurses in the state, and also in response to the “BSN in 10” law passed in 2017 that requires New York’s nurses to complete a bachelor’s degree within ten years of getting their initial license.

Dallas College is also developing a new BSN program, making it the first community college in the state to offer a nursing bachelor’s degree. This approval for this program was part of the Texas legislature’s steps to address the nursing shortage by allowing community colleges to offer four-year degree programs—which will make nursing education more affordable for prospective students.

2. Rethinking Admissions

To attract more students and make enrolling in a nursing program more convenient, some schools are rethinking the way they handle their admissions process. Instead of continuing to just admit students once a year, Florida State University has increased its start dates so students can enter the program in the fall, spring, and summer terms—thus making it easier for people to begin their studies at a time that’s right for them. For those who want a faster pathway to earning a BSN, the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) partnered with City Colleges of Chicago (CCC) to offer a dual enrollment program. This allows students earning an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) at CCC to enroll in UIC’s RN-BSN program and speed up earning the bachelor’s degree to enter the workforce faster.

3. Accelerating Learning

Accelerated programs have been an excellent way for those who have not received prior nursing education to earn a BSN faster than the usual four years. By allowing prospective students to leverage the general education coursework they completed in their previous degree program, nursing schools are better equipped to attract career changers, as well as those who decided to pursue nursing immediately after earning their first degree. To help reduce the impact of the nursing shortage in its state, the University of South Carolina is currently exploring the possibility of adding an accelerated BSN program to its offerings, so those with a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing discipline can earn a BSN in two years.

4. Tackling Faculty Shortages

Although a lot of attention is given to the nursing shortages that healthcare facilities around the country are experiencing, it’s important to keep in mind that there’s also a shortage of nursing educators, which is making it difficult for schools to achieve the enrollment levels necessary to train all the nurses needed in a community. The problem is so bad that, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), nursing programs actually denied admissions to 91,938 qualified candidates in 2021 because of inadequate nursing faculty, as well as a lack of clinical sites and classroom space. To help increase faculty levels at nursing schools, the AACN is lobbying the federal government for advanced nursing education funding and promoting the benefits of pursuing nursing faculty careers.

Healthcare facilities have also joined the cause of increasing nursing faculty. For example, Yale New Haven Health System has entered into a partnership with Fairfield University, Gateway Community College, Quinnipiac University, and Southern Connecticut State University to increase nursing faculty at these schools through a contribution of $1.7 million annually for four years. The funds will also go toward nursing programming.

The nursing profession has been taking a hit for a long time in terms of staffing levels, and the pandemic only exacerbated the problem. However, the changes being made at nursing schools will go a long way toward solving the problem and tackling the specific healthcare needs of different communities.

The Causes of Nursing Shortages

There have been several reasons cited for the nursing shortage, including the aging population creating more demand for healthcare services around the country, a large portion of the workforce entering retirement, and the demands of the job causing nurses to burn out and quit.

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic only made a bad situation worse. According to a study by the Journal of Nursing Regulation, increased workloads took their toll on nurses, leaving them feeling anywhere from emotionally drained to fatigued to burned out. In fact, the situation was so stressful that researchers found many nurses admitted to feeling “at the end of their rope” on a regular basis. Given these conditions, it’s not surprising that during the pandemic, 100,000 nurses quit their jobs.