WASHINGTON – Qualified nursing students are being turned away because of a lack of teachers to train them, a situation that the dean of the University of Maryland’s nursing school called a national “public health crisis” Wednesday.
Dr. Janet Allan told a congressional briefing that only half of the qualified applicants to bachelor-degree nursing programs in Maryland were admitted last year, because there were not enough teachers.
“The faculty shortage is very real. It’s a growing crisis,” said Allan, who moderated the briefing sponsored by Senator Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., and the group Americans for Nursing Shortage Relief. “It’s almost tragic that even five years ago, we couldn’t fill our classrooms.”
She said after the briefing that the University of Maryland School of Nursing has “these fabulous students, and we have to turn them away.”
Allan said an informal survey of the state’s nursing schools by the university found that 2,800 qualified applicants for associate- and bachelor-degree nursing programs were denied admission last year. The numbers were based on responses from eight nursing programs in the state: the University of Maryland, Johns Hopkins University, Coppin State University, Villa Julie College, Bowie State University, Towson University, Salisbury University and Columbia Union College.
Five of those eight cited a faculty shortage as the main reason they rejected qualified candidates.
Nationally, 20 percent of nursing schools say they need more faculty members, according to a report cited by the National League of Nursing.
Allan said that nearly 16,000 qualified nursing school applicants were rejected nationwide last year, prospective students who might have gone on to help address problems such as 7 percent increases in “failure to rescue” cases and in patient mortality rates in recent years.
She said the main thing needed is money.
“If you’re in a public institution in this country, your budget has been cut. My budget has been cut,” Allan said. “If I had money, I’d find the faculty to hire.”
She added that fresh recruiting efforts and a more creative curriculum are also necessary to encourage nurses and nursing students to consider teaching.
It can be a tough sell. Shannon McClellan, senior adviser to the dean, noted that salaries for new nursing teachers hover between $40,000 and $45,000 a year, about $20,000 less than the average salary of a nurse practitioner in Maryland. She said other deterrents, such as heavy workloads and rigorous license requirements for faculty, prevent would-be nurses from entering the field.
Other schools in the state are feeling the effects. Sharon Bernier, director of the nursing program at Montgomery College in Takoma Park, said that she is working to double the size of the college’s nursing program, which she would be glad to do, if she had the faculty — and the money.
“Salaries seemed to be the driving factor for people we interviewed whom we offered positions to,” she said.
Her school was only able to admit 64 of the 270 qualified applicants it had last year.
“The faculty shortage in the state of Maryland . . . is acute for all of the programs,” she said. “And we have all these applicants.”
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