As Nursing Faculty Shortages Persist, Higher Education Institutions in the West Respond with Innovative Solutions

  • Year Published : 2023
  • Month Published : September

BOULDER, Colo. – The healthcare industry is experiencing a dramatic increase in the demand for nurses, brought on by factors including mass retirements, wage disparities, and challenging work environments. These pressures are also affecting the colleges and universities that educate the future workforce of nurses.

It is projected that one-third of the nursing faculty workforce will retire by 2025, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. While many postsecondary institutions are experiencing declining overall enrollments, tens of thousands of eligible students are turned away each year because of the lack of nursing educators available and a limited capacity for clinical facility placements.

In response, the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) has produced a series of policy briefs, as well as curated a repository of resources, that highlight the common challenges facing states, institutions, and systems in the West and the strategies they are using to address these challenges. Topics include:

WICHE works collaboratively to expand educational access and excellence for all residents of the West, which includes 15 U.S. states and the U.S. Pacific Territories and Freely Associated States.

“Nurses have a critical role in the health and wellness of our communities, and so do the educators who teach them,” said Barbara Damron, a WICHE Commissioner who advised on the project, and professor and senior advisor at the University of New Mexico College of Nursing. “It is imperative that we examine the factors impacting nursing faculty right now so we can better understand how to support nursing programs across the region.”

The briefs are informed by findings from roundtable discussions hosted by WICHE earlier this year, which aimed to identify scalable solutions for addressing the most pressing challenges to developing 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 from across the West.

Colleen Falkenstern, a senior research analyst at WICHE and project lead, said this work will be ongoing as WICHE continues to curate resources and ideas from across educational institutions and Western states.

“The repository is a collection of the most innovative solutions that states in the WICHE region are using to address these challenges, so that nursing programs looking to bolster faculty retention, as well as increase the enrollment and retention of students, can share ideas and learn from each other,” she said.

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