Nurse educator standing in front of class

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.

Anna Moats-Gibson, RN, MSN
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