Nursing Workforce in the West

The Project

In Winter 2023, the WICHE Policy Analysis and Research team hosted a series of policy roundtables with stakeholders from across the West to focus on identifying scalable solutions for addressing the most pressing challenges to develop a robust nursing workforce that meets current and future needs. Roundtable participants include nursing school faculty and administrators, hospital and other clinical-setting staff and administrators, state nursing workforce centers, boards of nursing, nursing associations, staff from state higher education offices, and other state workforce and healthcare agencies. Following these conversations, WICHE developed a series of briefs that highlight the common challenges states, institutions, and systems are facing in the region as well as approaches for addressing these challenges.

The Issue

The current healthcare environment is experiencing a dramatic increase in the demand for nurses. Several factors contribute to the mismatch between nursing supply and demand, such as:

  • A large number of nurses nearing retirement age
  • Wage disparities
  • Challenging working environments
  • An aging population with an increasing level of chronic disease thereby requiring increased healthcare resources for patients

These factors existed prior to COVID-19, but the impact has been accelerated by the pandemic. While the current supply of nurses is higher than ever before, a significant need remains. This problem can be approached by the introduction of new workers and by stabilizing and retaining the current workforce. Interest in nursing remains high, and although many colleges are experiencing declining enrollments, several thousand eligible students are turned away from nursing programs each year. Two major delimiting factors for admitting larger nursing classes are a lack of sufficient faculty and clinical preceptors and inadequate numbers of clinical facility placements.


Factors Affecting the Nursing Workforce

Pay Disparity

The median annual salary for nursing educators is $45,200 less than the median annual salary for advanced practice nurses.

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Faculty Vacancies

In 2022, a total of 2,166 full-time faculty positions were vacant with a vacancy rate of 8.8%.

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Faculty Retirements

It is projected that 1/3 of the nursing faculty workforce will retire by 2025.

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Limited Capacity to Enroll More Students

Nursing schools turned down over 90,000  applications in 2021 due to limitations in clinical sites, faculty, and resource constraints.

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Project Leads

Colleen Falkenstern

Senior Research Analyst, Policy Analysis and Research



Christina Sedney

Director of Policy and Strategic Initiatives, Policy Analysis and Research