Nursing Workforce in the West
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 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
The median annual salary for nursing educators is $45,200 less than the median annual salary for advanced practice nurses.
In 2022, a total of 2,166 full-time faculty positions were vacant with a vacancy rate of 8.8%.
It is projected that 1/3 of the nursing faculty workforce will retire by 2025.
Nursing schools turned down over 90,000 applications in 2021 due to limitations in clinical sites, faculty, and resource constraints.
Senior Research Analyst, Policy Analysis and Research
Colleen Falkenstern serves as a research analyst in WICHE’s Policy Analysis and Research unit. In her role, she supports the development of WICHE’s annual data resources—Regional Fact Book for Higher Education in the West, Benchmarks (of access and success), and Tuition and Fees in Public Higher Education in the West. She also provides analytical support for WICHE’s quadrennial projections of high school graduates, Knocking at the College Door. She received a bachelor’s degree in marketing and management from the University of South Carolina—Columbia and a master’s degree in higher education from the University of Denver.
Director of Policy and Strategic Initiatives, Policy Analysis & Research
Christina Sedney is the Director of Policy and Strategic Initiatives at WICHE, where she works on a variety of topics including the WICHE State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (W-SARA), approaches to serving underrepresented student populations, higher education governance issues, and policy solutions for adult learners. Prior to WICHE, Sedney worked for international nonprofit Teach For All and completed a fellowship with the Kenneth Rainin Foundation. She also held multiple roles with the AmeriCorps program City Year, from classroom-based corps member to project manager on their public policy team. She holds a B.A. from the University of Virginia and a master’s degree in public policy from the University of California, Berkeley.