By Christine Whitmarsh, RN, BSN
A significant contributing factor to the nursing shortage is the nursing school bottleneck. It’s not that the high schools aren’t producing enough graduates with career aspirations of nursing or travel nursing for the free-spirits with a passion for seeing the country. The shortage in nursing schools starts at the front of the class. A nursing education is not suited for a mass lecture format, particularly during clinicals when several students are working on one often anxious instructor’s license. Therefore, not enough instructors means a painfully high number of rejection letters to qualified nursing school applicants.
The New York City Council announced earlier this year that the City University of New York is working with several NYC hospitals on a guest faculty program aimed at providing nursing school professors, even if temporarily. The program will identify experienced nurses already working in the city’s hospitals who wouldn’t mind a temporary teaching assignment. A major benefit of the program is that the hospital nurses don’t have to quit their jobs or lose their benefits. The ten guest nursing faculty positions are projected to allow 100 new nursing students to enter the program each year.
Although technically this program attempts to remedy one of the root causes of the nursing shortage by creating a minor shortage of NYC hospital staff, the intention is a good one. If this type of program succeeds and is implemented in other cities, two possible opportunities for travel nurses may result. First, as temporary replacements for the hospital nurses turned professors. Second, experienced travel nurses might consider contacting participating schools between assignments and during down time, to apply for some of the guest faculty positions.
Solving the nursing shortage is going to be a complex undertaking that is unlikely to be solved by signing on the dotted line of a massive stimulus bill. With an estimated half a million nurses needed by 2016, the health care industry will have to look at every resource available, from foreign trained nurses (as they have been for years) and travel nurses to unclogging the nursing school bottleneck and graduating more nurses. Travel nurse agencies and other travel RN recruiters now have the opportunity to fight on behalf of their travel nurses. They can remind hospitals that using travel nurses is an excellent solution to short staffing, and that it’s a solution available now.
Christine Whitmarsh is a Registered Nurse with a BSN from the University of Rhode Island. She is a freelance health journalist and medical writer and a contributor to Travel Nurse Source and Allied Travel Careers.