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The Growing Shortage of Nursing Faculty


A faculty shortage has begun to affect nursing programs around the nation, and many now have a need for educators who hold a doctoral degree. No matter what you plan to do with your advanced nursing degree, this is an issue that could impact you and the profession as a whole.


Discover some of the primary reasons for this educator shortage and learn how you can potentially help solve the problem by becoming faculty in a respected nursing program:

Reasons for the Nursing Faculty Shortage

Organizations such as the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) have identified several key factors that contribute to the nursing faculty shortage. In many programs, faculty age has continued to climb over the years, and the average age of a nursing professor with a doctorate is 61.6 years of age. As a result, educators may have shorter teaching careers, and many are approaching retirement.


According to the AACN, from 2014 to 2015, about 700 nursing programs reported over 1,200 faculty vacancies. Across the U.S., the faculty vacancy rate in nursing programs is just under 7 percent, and nearly all positions require a doctorate. While limited funding is the main reason for faculty vacancies in many programs, lack of qualified applicants is also a common explanation for these unfilled positions. This means not enough nursing professionals have the doctorate they need to take on these educator roles.


Some doctoral-prepared nursing professionals simply choose to pursue career paths that lead away from teaching. Clinical, administrative, and even political jobs in the private sector often offer higher compensation. In fact, as DailyNurse states, a nurse practitioner earns an average annual salary of over $91,000 per year, while a nursing faculty member earns closer to $74,000 per year.

Why Students Should Care About the Faculty Shortage

The nursing faculty shortage affects the greater health care profession, but it has a particularly large impact on nursing students. Data from the AACN suggests that a lack of adequate nursing faculty could have a domino effect within the health care industry. After all, too few faculty members could lead to both a shortage of nurses and far fewer nursing educators than before.


Fortunately, organizations such as the Robert Johnson Wood Foundation (RJWF) have begun to take steps to address the nursing faculty shortage. For instance, the New Jersey Nursing Initiative encourages locals to pursue advanced degrees in nursing by providing scholarships, living funds, and even new technology. The RWJF Nurse Faculty Scholars program offers career development awards to help nursing faculty members perform at their best. The organization also aims to help nursing students realize their full potential with the support of the Future of Nursing Scholars program.


In addition to helping bridge the pay gap between faculty members and clinical professionals, many other organizations are considering creative solutions to address the nursing faculty shortage. As DailyNurse reports, the state of Wisconsin has launched the Nurses for Wisconsin Initiative, which offers fellowships and loan forgiveness to advanced practice nurses who teach in the state after graduation.


Some academic institutions plan to launch initiatives that will increase diversity in their Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) programs, gradually changing the makeup of the nursing profession. This could have the additional benefit of encouraging minority students to enroll in nursing programs and pursue rewarding careers in this profession.

How to Become Faculty in a Nursing Program

As a graduate student working toward an advanced practice nursing degree, you may already be on the right track toward addressing this faculty shortage. After all, teaching is one of the many career options that you may choose to pursue. Before you lead a classroom, however, you must typically earn a doctorate. With a DNP degree, you will be uniquely qualified to educate the nurses of tomorrow, due to the combination of clinical experience and academic understanding of DNPs.


To pursue this path, you can start by learning about online DNP programs you might be interested in. One of the main benefits of completing your DNP degree online is that all learning takes place in a virtual classroom, with no required residency. Many online programs last only 18 months, allowing you to continue to build your career without additional delay.


In addition, you may qualify for a federal Nurse Faculty Loan. When you apply for this type of funding, you may borrow to pay for your degree with an interest rate as low as 3 percent. While you must begin repaying the loan after completing your doctoral program, you may be eligible for loan cancellation. If you hold a full-time nursing faculty position for four consecutive years, 85 percent of your loan may be canceled.


Once you earn a DNP degree, you may have the knowledge, skills, and experience necessary to lead a research program or teach nursing at the post-secondary level. Take the time to network in your community and find the ideal fit for your interests and expertise. No matter which avenue you choose, you may have the option to become a faculty member, educating the nurses of tomorrow and helping the industry continue to grow in a positive direction.


Completing a terminal degree program has the potential to open numerous doors. If you have the drive to educate aspiring nurses, shape the health care industry, and enjoy a meaningful career as a DNP, consider becoming a doctoral-prepared faculty member. To learn more about your educational options, visit Maryville University’s online DNP program.


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