So Many Patients, So Few Nurses

Short-staffed, high census, staff call-ins… do these sound familiar? Every nurse has experienced overwhelm and stress during a demanding floor assignment. So why is this scenario occurring daily, and how can it be fixed? There are many factors that contribute to the nursing shortage and finding a solution is critical. Patient satisfaction and quality care are largely dependent on interactions with nurses. If there are not enough nurses or overworked nurses interacting with patients, outcomes will not be ideal. Let's discuss where this all starts, which is nursing education. The need for more nurse educators is higher now than ever before.

Contributing Factors to the Nursing Shortage

The current population of nurses is aging, and many of the baby boomers are beginning to retire. Just as the baby boomer generation relies on increased health services, the older generation of nurses is depending more on the healthcare system rather than being a part of it. If we weren't already burnt out before COVID-19, it is highly likely that we are now. Many nurses' mental health has been recently compromised due to the PPE requirements, change in patient population, and many unknowns throughout the work shift. This has led to more nurses leaving the bedside or calling in more frequently.

It is estimated that there will be 100,000 nursing positions by 2022, and this is expected to grow by 11% every year. This is highly concerning because as the amount of nurses decreases, so will the burnout rate. This will continually create more vacancies. Despite the shortage, patient satisfaction expectations will not change and the healthcare system will become increasingly complex. The focus on preventative care and the initiative to provide community-based care will create more available nursing positions, and not just at the bedside. Therefore, supplying more nurses is critical as expectations around providing adequate healthcare are still present.

Nurse Educators Needed…Yesterday

Much like how the baby boomer population of staff nurses are approaching retirement, one-third of all nursing faculty is expected to retire by 2025. As if acceptance into nursing school isn’t difficult on its own, this development will significantly decrease the number of students accepted into nursing programs. Associate nursing programs have already declined from 1,937 programs in 2010 to 1,102 programs.

An article from Nursing Outlook explained that there is "a sense of urgency for the nursing education community to address the impending exodus of senior faculty and to develop younger faculty for their successful succession." Current younger faculty should consider advancing their education now so that they can easily step into the senior-level faculty openings. Additionally, it's important to encourage other nurses to pursue a career in nursing education.

RELATED: Nursing Education Degree Programs

Reasons to Become a Nurse Educator

There are many reasons to pursue a career in nursing education:

  • A ‘normal' schedule. No more 12-hour shifts, night shifts, staying after your shift, or late commutes. Your body will thank you for maintaining a regular circadian rhythm. Family time is also more consistent. You can actually make plans for the weekend!
  • Loan forgiveness. If specific requirements are met as a nurse educator, some states offer forgiveness or partial forgiveness of loans.
  • Easier on your body. We all know that nursing is a physically demanding job. However, nurse educators have the opportunity to sit while grading and teaching.
  • Creativity and autonomy. As an instructor, you can choose the types of activities you use to teach the students. You can continue to evaluate your effectiveness and change the way you present content as you discover better ways to help students learn.
  • Life-long learner. As the curriculum content changes, you will continuously adapt your courses and seek evidence-based practices and policies to influence your content. The opportunity to be in clinical settings allows you to observe up-to-date practices in many healthcare settings.
  • You can make a positive impact. Training the future nurses of healthcare is a privilege and a highly impactful role. You can choose to shed light on specific challenges in healthcare and provide meaningful solutions to pass along in the healthcare setting. The mindset of a student nurse is strongly influenced by the instructors they had in school. Think about all of the nurses who will enter the field with a positive attitude and a genuine desire to make a difference in each patient's life.
  • Job security. As discussed, there is a growing need for nurse educators who are passionate about contributing to the healthcare field by producing high-quality nurses.

Just imagine – in a few years, you could be completing your master's in nursing education and finding a satisfying and influential role as a nurse educator.

Nurse Educator FAQs

A diabetes nurse educator is a nurse who specializes in the care and management of patients with diabetes. They can be registered nurses, advanced-practice nurses, or nurses working in an expanded role. They can manage patients with both Type I and Type II diabetes, as well as women with gestational diabetes. Diabetes education can be one on one with patients, or via a group class.

They teach patients the causes, pathophysiology, and symptoms of diabetes as well as hypo and hyperglycemia. Patients need to understand these concepts to remain compliant with treatment and follow-up. Patients need to learn how to assess their extremities, especially the feet, for wounds, lacerations, and ulcers as diabetes can affect healing. They need to get routine eye exams to check for retinopathy.

Diabetes nurse educators must also reach patients about the importance of diet and nutrition. Patients must learn to count carbohydrates and read food labels. They also need to learn to log their blood sugars and food to find out how they respond to the foods they choose. Patients must also learn about medications used for diabetes. They must learn timeframes in which the peak effect of the medication takes place, and what signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia are, and how to avoid "bottoming out." Insulin-dependent diabetics especially need close monitoring-they must learn about the different types of insulins along with their onset of action.

In years past, nurse educators developed curricula and taught the course material, while ensuring nurses demonstrated competency at the given skill or concepts. As technology has advanced, more online trainings are springing up in the clinical setting. However, there are pros and cons to this advancement in clinical learning.

Online learning is quick and cost-effective. Fewer nurse educators are needed to teach dozens of staff members clinical concepts. Competency is usually determined by passing an online exam, and completion is easily tracked electronically, which makes it easier for managers and nurse leaders to ensure all staff is trained. Moreover, staff complete online modules when they are able, rather than attending a class, which helps ease the burden of staffing coverage.

Conversely, online education has removed the hands-on approach to teaching. Students are unable to interact with an instructor, ask questions, and seek clarification of the content. While online learning is convenient, many nurses find they rush through the material as they must squeeze the courses in during their busy shift. Online learning lacks the practical approach to education - watching a procedure is far different than performing the procedure.

While nurse educators are still used in hospitals, sometimes they are used to develop online learning programs rather than leading classroom training.