Did you see it? –Nursing Schools Reject Thousands of Applicants Despite Nursing Shortage

In the midst of an acute nursing shortage in the United States, schools are turning away thousands of qualified applicants as they struggle to expand class size and hire more teachers for nursing programs according to a recent CNN report.

In America, experienced nurses are retiring at a rapid clip, and there aren't enough new nursing graduates to replenish the workforce. At the same time, the nation's population is aging and requires more care.

 "It's really a catch 22 situation," said Robert Rosseter, spokesman for the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

There's tremendous demand from hospitals and clinics to hire more nurses," he said. "There's tremendous demand from students who want to enter nursing programs, but schools are tapped out."

There are currently about three million nurses in the United States. The country will need to produce more than one million new registered nurses by 2022 to fulfill its health care needs, according to the American Nurses Association estimates.

That's a problem.

In 2017, nursing schools turned away more than 56,000 qualified applicants from undergraduate nursing programs. Going back a decade, nursing schools have annually rejected around 30,000 applicants who met admissions requirements, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

"Some of these applicants graduated high school top of their class with a 3.5 GPA or higher," said Rosseter. "But the competition to get into a nursing school right now is so intense."

Because of the lack of openings, nursing programs across the board -- in community colleges to undergraduate and graduate schools -- are rejecting students in droves.

Erica Kay is making her third attempt to get into a nursing program offered in a community college near where she lives in southern California.

Kay, 35, already is a certified surgical technician and a certified medical assistant.

"I've been working in health care since I was 21. This is my passion," she said. "I know I will be a great nurse and I'm studying very hard to get accepted into a program," she said

She's taken the standardized admissions test for nursing schools twice and applied to three community colleges. She didn't get in.

"One school responded in a letter they had 343 applications and only accepted 60 students," she said. Another school had 60 slots for 262 applications.

"Some programs won't even consider you if you score less than 80% even if you meet all other criteria," she said. Kay is retaking the nearly four-hour-long test next month, hoping to better her score.

"It shocks and upsets me that there are so many hurdles to get into nursing school when we have a nursing shortage," said Kay. "But I am going to keep trying."

Jane Kirschling, dean of the University of Maryland School of Nursing in Baltimore, said her school admits new students in the undergraduate program twice a year.

"We're averaging 200 applications each time for 55 slots," she said. "So we're turning away one student for every student we accept."

She said the nursing profession has surged in popularity for a few reasons. "Nursing offers an entry-level living wage with which you can support a family," said Kirschling.

Like many nursing schools in the U.S., Mott Community College in Flint, Michigan has also reduced the number of new nursing students it admits despite an ongoing nurse shortage in the U.S.

There's built-in flexibility and mobility. "You can work three 12-hour shifts and get four days off," she said. And nurses aren't locked into a specific location, employer or specialty for the rest of their lives. "There's tremendous growth opportunity," said Kirschling.

But Kirschling said increasing school class size to accommodate more students isn't easy or practical.

For one thing, nursing schools are struggling to hire more qualified teachers. "The annual national faculty vacancy rate in nursing programs is over 7%. That's pretty high," said Rosseter. "It's about two teachers per nursing school or a shortage of 1,565 teachers."

Better pay for working nurses is luring current and potential nurse educators away from teaching. The average salary of a nurse practitioner is $97,000 compared to an average salary of $78,575 for a nursing school assistant professor, according to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.

Mott Community College in Flint, Michigan, last year reduced its new admissions from 80 to 64 students accepted twice a year into its two-year associate degree in nursing program.

The move was partly in response to a decision by the Michigan Board of Nursing to shrink the nursing student-to-faculty ratio for clinical training in hospitals and clinics. This was aimed at improving safety and avoiding crowded clinical settings.

Students in the nursing program at Mott Community College in Flint, Michigan.

"It changed from 10 students for one educator to 8 students. So we had to adjust our class size accordingly," said Rebecca Myszenski, dean of the division of Health Sciences at Mott Community College.

Kirschling's school in Baltimore has made similar adjustments. "We used to send eight to 10 nursing students per instructor to hospitals for clinical rotations. Now it's six students," she said.

Pediatrics, obstetrics and mental health are the areas where nursing students have the most unmet demand for clinical training," said Kirschling. "As we try to increase the number of nursing students, these three areas will be bottlenecks for nursing programs."

Rosseter agrees that class size presents another challenge for nursing schools. "There's not enough available clinical space to train students," he said.

Despite the constraints, nursing programs are thinking of ways 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, dean of West Virginia University's School of Nursing.

For example, Anne Arundel Community College in Arnold, Maryland, offers an accelerated associate nursing program that allows qualified paramedics or veterans to be admitted straight into the second year of the two-year program.

In Flint, Mott Community College has partnered with University of Michigan's accelerated 16-month undergraduate program designed for veterans with medical experience who want to transition into a nursing career.

"These bridge programs could really help with the [nursing] shortage," said Myszenski. "You have to address the nursing shortage by thinking out of the box."

Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

SHARE

39 COMMENTS

  1. I am and adjunct instructor for our community state college . I have been turned away not needing me for the nursing classes due to decrease enrollment? So I am very confused with this article. I have heard it recently from someone who was trying to get into a nursing program and I thought they were incorrect with their information. I will have to check this out and see why they are saying decrease enrollments?

  2. After 45 years of nursing, working up from an LPN to my CNS, I see the issue in the hierarchy of nursing. At most stages of my career (including the present), it seems to be more about WHO you know than WHAT you know. Oh yeah…also your gender. Male RNs are more rapidly advanced. Perhaps the system of education has to consider the lopsided EMPLOYMENT opportunities. Experience is great-we all have something to contribute…and this is NOT taught in the books.
    My current “title” is a STAFF NURSE. My manager, my CNO tell me “we don’t have the money to pay you as a CNS.” I am near retirement and although every day I feel the anguish of being regarded as a staff nurse, I continue to function at the level of my education and licensure. To do otherwise is a disservice to my patients.

  3. The real story is shortage jobs for any new entering nurses since 2002, maybe much longer. Employers don’t want nurses because they want to save money, use physician assistants to do the nurse jobs, and still have fear of the health care reform mandates that have caused red tape for any growth of a facility. You will notice throughout our country more heart hospitals and cancer hospitals but not any more jobs offered and people are typically sicker. Those that can not get into a clinical seat may want to pursue alternative health, chiropractic care, and avenues that show much more results.

    • It’s a hospital induced nursing shortage to save money. The nurse to patient ratios are too high and nurses work long hours with no breaks. Nurses cant find jobs and this is the truth.

      • It took me a year and 32 applications to get a job at the same hospital that supported the initial scholarship that got me into nursing. Nurse:patient ratios are poor at best and unsafe at worst – and this is the norm. I’m now working in yet another “desperate” area; Psych provider (prescriber – or as Oregon would have it “licensed medical provider” usually abbreviated as LMP). I struggled as a nurse. In both RN/BSN and NP schools there was a problem getting clinical instructors/clinical rotations. It’s a multi-system, system-wide pervasive problem. Unlikely to be solved because despite many nursing unions; there is no proper USE of all that potential power. Even now I have schools I don’t know randomly attempting contact to request clinical instruction hours for RN/BSN classes, or for NP students (or sometimes both). I love nursing on every level (and I’ve been a CNA, an RN and now an NP with a psych focus). But there are problems.

  4. I believe the nursing schools need to review their requirements for nursing instructors. I have applied to 4 different schools and have not gotten a response from 3 of them. The 4th one never gave me an assignment even though I was hired. I have a Masters in Nursing Administration and have had Executive level positions and am certainly qualified to teach Leadership classes. I agree instructors/professors should be paid more. I wasn’t even concerned about salary when I applied.

  5. This may sound like an odd twist on the situation, but after 25 years of nursing, I transitioned to Public Health Emergency Preparedness, then on to a full time, non-nursing, university instructor position in Emergency Management. I have kept my nursing license current and still work part time in correctional nursing. The academic department I am aligned with has an all on-line RN to BSN and MSN (educator-focused).

    My nursing colleagues are fortunate, in that there is rarely any turnover. Most are highly satisfied with our salaries and most have some clinical ‘side job’ (paid or volunteer), if not for the money, for the skills retention. More hours per work week? Sure, but all of us are happy with a great employer and we are treated like the professionals we are.

    I suspect if you peel back the onion a bit, you will find that some of the turnover is due to having to work at the lower spectrum, rather than the higher end, of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The lack of respect can be a factor worth considering in the equation.

    L.A. Nelson MS RN NHDP-BC NMCEM
    Portales NM

  6. I like the idea of EMT and VETS going directly into the second year of a nursing program….many hospitals that have nursing schools should design a fast-track for these individuals and do a mentoring/clinical time like many BSN programs are doing with the students in their 4th year – where they go 3 days a week with 1 or 2 nurses on their shifts in the same unit…then they are ready to go!

  7. I also agree with Cherie. I would much rather take instruction from a seasoned nurse than one with just initials after their name. Start getting the vet nurses teaching with proper compensation or this crisis only gets more real.

  8. Nursing instructors are not paid enough, period. Pay them more and they will not leave for higher paying jobs. More instructors equal ability to accept more students into nursing programs.
    Also, once these ADN students graduate and get a job, they are expected to be working on their BSN to keep their jobs. Some of the ADN’s and diploma school graduates would stay if you did not require them to get a BSN. You (the hospitals) are requiring degrees to keep their jobs. No wonder there is a shortage. And, it’s gonna get worse. The administration in the hospitals have theirselves to blame.

    • I agree wholeheartedly. My wife, who is an APN with 40+ years of experience, has been approached many times to be an instructor. The pay was ridiculous, so she declines every time. This won’t change until the H1B visa program is killed and it becomes necessary to address the issues that inhibit the supply of local nursing talent.

  9. Just a few comments.
    While it may be fun to bash terminal degrees, understand that this is an academia issue, not a nursing issue. Most major universities require their faculty to hold terminal degrees. Additional requirements are publishing, community service, and service to their fields.
    I myself spent 30 years in critical care/ER before attaining my PhD, and I have worked with many outstanding faculty with terminal degrees who did the same.
    The issue of clinical space is important. For some reason, too many CNO’s have forgotten their professional obligation to train the next generation of nurses. EVERY hospital should be a teaching hospital, but far too many are not. Opening up night shift clinicals would also be a great help.
    Salaries for nurse educators are dismal. While one poster above noted $78,000 as a starting salary, pay at community colleges and most private schools are well below this. NP’s can make a lot more money in practice, and I took a $15,000 cut in pay to teach even at a “major” school.
    Next, the profession of nursing has been clamoring for decades for a mandatory BSN entry level, IN SPITE of the fact that there are nowhere near enough larger universities to provide the number of nurses we need. One solution was to allow community colleges to offer a BSN.
    Finally, far too many hospitals and states allow unrealistic nurse-patient ratios to be the norm. The ANA effort via the Safe Staffing Initiative has been a failure in many states and in far too many facilities. The only state that has mandated sane ratios has been California, and those ratios were set by the California Department of Health after 4 years of hearings, not by a union. This should be the model we all pursue, in every state. Far too many of those select few who were admitted to nursing schools quit after a year or two of practice due to the heavy loads.
    There is, of course, much more to be said. Happy to have that discussion anytime

    • It is a multifaceted problem. It is obvious from the discussion that there are many different opines on this issue. Another factor to add to the pile is the ability to pass a rigorous, validated exam like the National Council’s NCLEX exam. Programs of nursing are put into pressure cookers to ensure that the graduates can pass the NCLEX. By having nurses without academic preparation doing the “teaching”, this clinically prepared faculty only approach is unlikely to contribute to the review of evidence needed to successfully pass the licensure exam. Another example of nurses not working together to achieve the outcome. Nursing programs must make use of all levels of nurses’ education, leadership, and practice to educate the 21st century nurse.
      On another note, until you have pursued and attained a higher degree which is extraordinary given my experience, don’t be a hater. Suzette

    • 1)Professors of Nursing education are not adequately compensated in comparison to the level of education and skills required to teach.

      2) Requiring a BSN for entry into Nursing is an attempt to fortify us professionally as opposed to being considered technical or vocational

      3) More education requirements
      and increased exposure to sicker patients needs to translate to more money

      4) There needs to be a standard pay based on education and years of experience. For instance if a nurse leaves direct patient care and goes to say medical or utilization review there should not be a pay cut. It should not matter in a hospital versus Insurance company etc. The pay should reflect education and years of experience.

      There’s more I could say but I think that’s enough food for thought🙂

  10. I strongly agree with Cherie, I have been a nurse for 44 years, would love to teach, but I don’t feel that the degrees needed are worth the added financial burden. Your old school nurses taught on their units when students came in for clinical, this worked out very well, and should be utilized again. Thinking out of the box—ask the bedside nurse how to do things!

  11. I agree that Nursing Instructors do not need a PhD to teach the skills, ethics, pathophysiology and “listening” skills for student nurses. I have taught Nursing for about 30 years in a variety of settings: Acute Care facilities, long-term care facilities, Skilled nursing facilities. Because of all my years as a practicing RN, I was able to use scenarios from my many years of working as a bedside nurse.

  12. The DNP degree was suppose to solve this problem of a shortage of nurses with doctorate degrees. In fact, universities are not recognizing it as on par with the PhD (nor should they) and, it would seem, still want faculty to have traditional doctorate degrees. Similarly, the people hiring in the clinical settings are not preferentially choosing candidate with DNP degrees over conventional NPs with MSN degrees. So the bottom line is exactly what did this new and innovative degree accomplish? Seems to me that we are right back to where we started – in terms of nursing instructor shortage – as before this whole thing came to fruition. Yet another half___ idea concocted by the powers that be in nursing.

    It is not that there is anything wrong with a PhD in nursing or in any other field, for that matter. It is more an issue of it not being necessary nor desirable for purposes of teaching undergrads or even graduate students pursuing clinical degrees i.e. NPs. In these settings, the individual with an MSN and heavy clinical experience is preferable. That being said, universities and colleges, do not wish to acknowledge any such reality. As one who has lived my professional life for long periods alternately in both the clinical arena, as well as in the academic setting, I can firmly attest to the fact that while doctorate has a valid place, that place is neither in teaching undergrads nor is it in treating patients in the primary care setting.

  13. In 2008, after my husband’s employer of 19 years went bankrupt, I was forced to make a choice between a full time Nursing Faculty and a full time clinical position. The faculty position was weekdays 10 months a year and paid $48,000/year. The clinical position was four 10 hour shifts a week, every third weekend, and paid $97,000/year. Over DOUBLE the Faculty position!!! And that was before any overtime.

    Unfortunately in the state educational system, a Nursing professor and an English professor make the SAME money. As full time Nursing Faculty, we knew our students would make MORE money their first year out of school than we were being paid to teach theme. This pay discrepancy repeatedly kept qualified Faculty away from education. This issue must be addressed for Nursing schools to retain qualified Faculty in Education.

    My passion for the past 15 years had been Nursing education but I could not sacrifice my family’s life for my passion. In order not to sell our house and move our children from their schools, we chose the clinical position. Education lost me because their pay was not competitive.

  14. What can be done about ..?????Encourage and promote the current Nurse,create some type of program to Grand father them into higher positions.withou long hours in the classroom. Draw on their current experiences,and base it on that to determine type of lesser Education /cost it will be to the individual,to either teach or move up in nursing careers.Or start the High schoolers out completing the pre entrance classes for Nursing with a promise of getting into nursing school.

  15. I had a Diploma in Nursing. When I graduated in 1970, we ran the hospital. Get back to one on one teaching in any clinical site with nurses who know how to teach a nurse “how to do and how to think through medical issues”. Diploma nurses are the best. I went back to school to get my BSN which has not really been any asset in clinical nursing. Diploma nurses would be great for the long term care needs. Nursing homes are in need of RNs as the residents are much sicker on arrival. A teaching program which does not require a PHD who has never worked or does not currently work in clinical areas do not teach nurses how to do the job! Hospitals would have better staffing if they offered the training in the hospitals like diploma’s once did. In a hospital a nurse has ancillary staff, ie., MD’s, Respiratory therapy, lab, X ray etc. In a nursing home, nurses must rely on nursing knowledge and assessment to take care of residents. Real life experience, more clinical time in training should be in the program. I’m still working in LTC at the age of 69 and plan to stay until I can no longer move or use my brain. Yes, nurses NEED TO CARE for people, not money.

  16. I am a Nurse of over 25 years.I do not understand why it cost so much to continue your Education as a Nurse. if the need is so great.It appears to me that some type of program should be in place for all Nurse who wish to move on to higher Educations in the field nursing,without giving up a arm and a leg,and left with a huge bill.Entrence exams and classes,many times take individual several attempts before they pass.Its a money making set up.

  17. Have been LNP for 20plus years.now we have to take the TEAS test. Nothing to do about nursing. Getting in school is harder when you have been out of a classroom since 1996. The majority of us work 2 jobs and have kids some of us are single mothers. I took that test twice.the dream is gone. I am a hospice nurse x 15 years. Love my job and title LPN For life

  18. I feel that The Nursing School are making it hard for us to apply and be accepted.
    I am a CNA and when I apply to different colleges, is all ways some thing. I have a 2.50gpa is too low
    or the city college do not take loans you have to pay, out of pocket and ake another class or start all over again.
    I give up !

  19. When I went into nursing, my first objective WAS NOT how much I would be paid. I have just retired as a Hospice Nurse. We had students coming through our facility for a rotation. About 1 in 10 had what it takes, in my opinion, to be a good nurse. They constantly talked about how much money they could make, not wanting to work the hours required; they would often yawn and look around as I was mentoring them. As a general nurse you are NEVER going to be paid what you’d like. Those of us who are retiring looked at what we could do as a nurse for our patients and their families FIRST; today I don’t think that is the case. I agree that educators don’t need to be all PhDs, especially for clinical. I taught with a BS for quite a few years in OB; I had worked there as a general nurse and knew the ropes. I am concerned if we are going back to AD programs; 2yrs is NOT enough time unless you were previously an LPN. Just for laughs…when I graduated in 1968 my starting salary was $7000.00…no overtime paid but I often worked 12hr days.

  20. First, I want to say how much I agree with Cherie. Skilled nurses are valuable, even without an advanced degree. The drive to control budgets seems to be more important than competent, experienced care. New nurses are less expensive.
    As a nurse with 30 years experience in hospital nursing, I’m finding it a challenge to find employment since I’ve moved. I’m repeatedly turned down as I have no BS degree. Or, I must agree to get into a BS program and complete it within 5 years. I do not wish to go back to college at the age of 55. I have my specialty certifications. I believe my experience and advanced patient care skills would be far more valuable and appreciated by my patients than my ability to pass statistics.

    • I agree.. I’m currently a nursing student in my last year and I have professors that obtained a MSN to teach, but have very little clinical experience . This is a disadvantage to students. My mother has been a nurse for over 30 yrs and has an associates, but her knowledge is much greater than those with just credentials. I find it very frustrating when my instructor is looking up basic questions, due to lack of clinical experience … I’m not saying that teachers should remember everything, or that they should have all the answers.. but at the very least they should have enough experience in the clinical setting to make students feel comfortable and confident with their learning experience and environment ..

  21. Maybe if nurses were paid better with better benefits in teaching positions you could have more student class I intake if everyone really is concerned about the nurse shortage then make a significant increase in pay !

    • Totally agree. I worked as a nursing instructor in 2 diploma nursing schools and a BSN program. I have a Master’s degree in nursing and the salary was horrible for all the responsibility of giving meds, doing treatments etc. An instructor by law can only handle 10 nursing students.
      Increase salaries for instructors and hire more, then not so many students will need to be rejectec

  22. I think a lot potential nursing students overlook small private schools, the hours are flexible and the admissions requirements are not as stringent. They offer more hands on and a lot of one on one attention.

    • I agree, and what about all the online programs?? I’m an experienced ADN finishing my BSN on line at WGU. My pay won’t change as I make good money as a travel nurse but a BSN will get me a job at a magnet hospital. I honestly think magnet status looks great on paper but not hiring experienced ADNs with great clinical skills hurts patients outcomes. BSNs only have more research and management skills which aren’t needed as a floor nurse. We have such a shortage but the higher ups that run the magnet hospitals refuse to hire qualified RNS. So what are we to do???

  23. I absolutely agree that nurses should not have a Doctorate to teach nurses. This is ridiculous. If you have ever had an instructor with a Doctorate who has never worked as a Clinical RN, you would agree. RN’s with the clinical experience, or life experience in any role as a nurse, make much better instructors. I have been a nurse for 26 years and I can always tell you which nurses in Administration have or have not ever worked in a Clinical setting. That is very discouraging. You are putting people in these Nursing Degree Programs who only know how to instruct/teach. They have no clue what the real world of Nursing is all about. I would be willing to bet that a Nursing Program would graduate more prepared, more knowledgeable Nurses who are ready for the real world, if you allowed more real-world Nurses to teach. I would love to teach in a Nursing Program but I am not going back to college just to satisfy someone who only looks at a degree and not the person. These administrative nurses that are constantly showing up in these hospitals are running off nurses who work hard and do things the right way and know what they are doing. Again, we are being treated badly by people who have no clue what the Nursing Profession was meant to be. They walk around hospitals in their “man suits” and find new forms to make and find new pathways to follow. You want loyalty and work ethic, keep your old school nurses who have been so loyal and promote from within. Then you will have an Administrative Nurse who knows what she is doing and will treat the nurses right. We are so tired of telling the Medical Field what needs to be done, especially since they don’t want to listen to “the little people”. Nobody ever asks a nurse what needs to be done in their own field, or they don’t ask a real nurse, anyway.

    • I strongly agree with Cherie. I had instructors who went “from the classroom to a classroom”
      without ever touching a patient. I have 35 years of experience in ER nursing, and have my CEN.
      I started teaching clinicals a few years ago, and am able to teach students about real life alternatives
      when “by the book” methods fail. Experience is a much better teacher than a piece of paper that states
      you defended your dissertation successfuly.
      Give me that old time nursing!

    • I totally disagree with you as a 30 year nurse that has always worked in a hospital. I also have a doctorate and do contract work as an adjunct professor.

      Staff nurses typically do not value education. Would you have an engineering student taught by another engineer with no advanced degrees?… of course not! The issue here is money! Until universities and colleges pay nursing faculty better than what they can make in a hospital, there will always be a faculty shortage.

  24. THE OVEALL SITUATION SUCKS, ITS THE MANAGEMNT OF HOSPTALS THAS CAUSING IT THEY GOT RID OF EASONAL NURSES TO SAVE MONEY, NOW THEY R SUFFERING, THEY DESERVE IT, THE YOUNG ONES R
    OVERWORKED/UNDEPAID, EVERY ONE WANTS TO BE A NP, GOOD. EVENTUALY THEY WILL BE A DIME A
    DOZEN AND CANNOT FIND A JOB. NURSES ARE TIRED OF BEDSIDE CARE

  25. While this is a multi-faceted issue, one significant factor is that most schools of nursing require instructors to have a terminal (doctoral) degree. This qualification is not necessary for instructing baccalaureate and associate degree candidates. A Master’s degree is usually more than adequate, especially if the concentration is in Nursing Education. Yet hundreds of thousands of experienced, qualified Master’s-prepared nurses do not even apply for these positions due to the terminal degree requirement. This is ridiculous in light of how many students are being turned away.
    Yes, I think that it is important for Master’s degree candidates to be educated by nurses with Doctorates, but not undergraduates. This requirement needs to be changed if we are to even begin addressing the nursing shortage.

    • Allison, I agree entirely. I have always been a proponent of “one degree above” (BS/BA teaching AD, MS/MA teaching BS/BA, Terminal Degree teaching Masters) teaching; the instructor is close enough to understanding the degree, but have the additional background (and hopefully, clinical skills) to truly be affective. I think part of the problem is how the nursing education standards are interpreted. Those that set the standards have worded them in such a way that leaders in academia (who don’t understand nursing) set the bar as high as they do.

      L.A. Nelson MS RN NHDP-BC NMCEM
      Portales NM

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here