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by Amy Blitchok
It is a well-known fact that there is a significant nursing shortage across the United States. This gap in supply and demand is being driven by several factors.
3 Reasons Why Schools are Rejecting Candidates
1. A substantial portion of qualified nurses are reaching retirement at the same time, creating a sudden deficit that has been hard to fill. At the same time, Baby Boomers, which represent one of the largest generations, has increased demand on the healthcare system as they age and require additional medical care. As a result, the US will need to train one million new nurses by 2022 to meet demands. Despite this, nursing schools are turning away more qualified applicants than ever before. Just as demand for nursing is reaching an all-time high, nursing schools are finding themselves ill-equipped to take on more students.
2. Community colleges and undergraduate and graduate programs are all facing the same problems when it comes to adequately staffing their classrooms and having access to enough clinical space to accommodate students. Currently, nursing schools across the country are facing a teacher shortage with about 1,565 vacant positions. Part of the problem is that practicing nurses earn significantly more than instructors, so qualified teachers are foregoing the classroom to make more money. In addition, most schools simply don’t have the room in their clinical facilities to accommodate more students. Many states have responded to crowded classrooms by lowering the student-teacher ratio and placing stricter limits on how many people can be in a clinic at once. While this move certainly improves safety and the quality of instruction, it also reduces the number of applicants who can be accepted, thus making it even harder to get into nursing school.
3. With programs reducing the number of available slots and more applicants than ever throwing their hat in the ring, nursing school admissions have become incredibly competitive. Even highly qualified applicants with excellent GPAs and prior medical experience are facing rejection. For example, the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Nursing is one of the top programs in the country. They receive 300-400 applications to the BSN program and accept only 104. While UNC is already a highly competitive program, their acceptance rates are typical of the rest of the country. In 2014, a total of 31% of qualified applicants were rejected from the BSN program. In 2017, schools across the country rejected 56,000 qualified applicants from undergraduate programs. The fact that these applicants were highly qualified can’t be emphasized enough. Even with a national nursing shortage, top students are finding it nearly impossible to pursue their passion for healthcare.
Some nursing schools are responding to this problem with creative solutions. They are looking for ways to expand to new campuses and form partnerships with hospitals that allow nursing staff to take on teaching responsibilities. In addition, they are looking for opportunities to offer accelerated programs so that students can be moved through the pipeline faster. For example, veterans who have received medical training during their military career can be placed in bridge programs that allow them to transition into nursing without having to start from square one.
While nursing schools face some real challenges, there is some good news: the number of qualified nursing applicants is on the rise. People recognize that nursing offers a lucrative career with potential for growth and professional development. Even entry-level positions provide competitive compensation that can support a family and with flexible hours, nurses can enjoy plenty of time off. The field also offers an attractive level of job security. With the current level of demand, nurses should have no trouble finding and retaining optimal employment. For those interested in the field, the biggest hurdle is simply getting into nursing school.
At this point, the burden of addressing the nursing shortage appears to fall squarely on the shoulders of nursing schools. With tens of thousands of qualified applicants being rejected annually, schools must find a way to accommodate more students while also maintaining certain class sizes and instruction standards. Failing to adapt and find innovative solutions will only exacerbate the nursing shortage problem and ultimately lead to inadequate care for millions of Americans, especially older adults who are facing chronic health problems.