Nursing Faculty Needed
February 16, 2009
There is a shortage of registered nurses. Yet, tens of thousands of candidates want these secure and well-paying jobs. The prescription to alleviate this national problem is simple: Encourage more experienced nurses to become teachers, so there will be a new generation of nurses ready to take care of an aging population with a long life expectancy.
The economic downturn is causing a flood of applications to college nursing programs. By last month’s deadline, Stony Brook University had 800 applicants for the 120 seats available in the fall 2009 semester. It’s one of the few professions with clear and strong job growth that pays well – starting salaries are at least $50,000. But schools such as Suffolk Community College, which runs the largest nurse-training program in the state, are constrained from graduating more nurses because older faculty are retiring and there aren’t enough new professors to hire, since most experienced nurses don’t have the advanced teaching degrees required.
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Last summer, Congress passed and President George W. Bush signed a massive higher education bill that tries to get at the root causes of the shortage, including a pilot program advocated by Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-Mineola), who is a nurse. Among its provisions is one that would give scholarships to nurses pursuing advanced teaching degrees, on the condition that they agree to join the faculty of an accredited school.
Congress, however, needs to get busy and provide funding for all these programs. Our workforce of registered nurses is nearing retirement age, along with a good chunk of the population that will need more health care services. The vital signs of the nursing profession need attention.
© YellowBrix 2009