Nursing schools reject thousands of applicants amid shortage

Despite the nationwide nursing shortage, colleges across the U.S. are turning away qualified applicants as they struggle to hire teachers for nursing programs and expand class sizes, CNNMoney reports.

"It's really a catch 22 situation," said Robert Rosseter, spokesperson for the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. "There's tremendous demand from hospitals and clinics to hire more nurses," he said, noting there is also significant demand from students who want to pursue nursing, "but schools are tapped out."

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the U.S. nursing field will have more than one million vacancies by 2022, leaving hospitals to implement strategies to recruit and retain nurses. 

Nursing schools rejected over 56,000 qualified applicants from undergraduate nursing programs in 2017. "Some of these applicants graduated high school top of their class with a 3.5 GPA or higher," Mr. Rosseter said. "But the competition to get into a nursing school right now is so intense."

From community colleges to undergraduate and graduate schools, nursing programs are turning away prospective students due to a lack of openings. For example, the University of Maryland School of Nursing in Baltimore admits new students in the undergraduate program twice annually, said Jane Kirschling, PhD, RN, dean of the School of Nursing.  

"We're averaging 200 applications each time for 55 slots," she said. "So we're turning away one student for every student we accept." However, Dr. Kirschling added increasing school class size to accommodate more students is challenging and often impractical.

Mr. Rosseter agreed, adding how class size presents a significant challenge for nursing schools. "There's not enough available clinical space to train students," he said.

Additionally, higher salaries for working nurses is one factor contributing to why nursing schools struggle to hire more qualified teachers. "The annual national faculty vacancy rate in nursing programs is over 7 percent. That's pretty high," Mr. Rosseter said. "It's about two teachers per nursing school or a shortage of 1,565 teachers."

Despite these challenges, nursing programs across the country are developing strategies to accommodate more students.

"We're expanding our program to new campuses, we're looking at new models of partnering with hospitals to allow [their] nursing staff to [be able] to teach," said Tara Hulsey, PhD, RN, dean of West Virginia University's School of Nursing in Morgantown.

Additionally, Flint, Mich.-based Mott Community College teamed up with Ann Arbor-based University of Michigan's accelerated 16-month undergraduate program, which is designed for veterans with medical experience who want to pursue a nursing career.

"These bridge programs could really help with the [nursing] shortage," said Rebecca Myszenski, dean of the division of Health Sciences at Mott Community College. "You have to address the nursing shortage by thinking out of the box."

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