Instructors Are Causing The Nursing Shortage

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.

The United States is in need of qualified, educated nurses now more than ever. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, American nursing schools aren’t hiring an adequate amount of nursing faculty members. The lack of active nursing instructors has made getting an education a harder opportunity to come by for aspiring nurses. Nursing faculty members are aging and retiring, medical school budgets are tightening, and the job competition across the medical profession is increasing. All of these factors have led to somewhat of a crisis during a time when professional registered nurses are very high in demand.

Why Is There A Shortage of Nursing Instructors?

In a recent report, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing revealed that over 64,000 fully qualified applicants were turned away from nursing school programs due to a shortage of nursing instructors. The amount of faculty is scarce due to budgetary restrictions for nursing schools. Financial restrictions have made it very difficult for nursing colleges to be able to afford the qualified instructional staff they are expected to offer incoming baccalaureate and graduate students.

In addition to the faculty shortage, nursing schools aren’t accepting thousands of applicants for such reasons as limited classroom space and a lack of specialized clinical sites. Medical institutions currently employ an insufficient number of individuals qualified to instruct at a doctorate level, the specific clinical specializations in demand by many nursing applicants. The overall issue is somewhat of a “Catch-22” in that there aren’t enough qualified instructors to meet the demand of incoming students, while the current circumstances have made it nearly impossible to get accepted into a nursing college and become professionally qualified.

The following factors are largely responsible for the growing shortage of nursing instructors:

  • The average age of nursing school faculty members is rising: On average, nursing instructors are between 50 and 65 years of age. This has resulted in a higher turnover for nursing instructors and shorter teaching careers due to the amount of energy and productivity required.
  • Many instructor retirements are expected to occur over the next 10 years: Most nursing instructors retire around 62 years old. The older age of faculty members increases the likelihood of them retiring in the near future, leaving nursing students without the qualified, experienced instructors they need.
  • Public nursing school instructors aren’t getting the pay they deserve: Those qualified to teach in nursing are becoming discouraged by the lower salary offered by nursing schools. More instructors are leaving nursing schools or teaching altogether to accept more lucrative job positions as nurse practitioners in clinical and private-sector settings.
  • Too many applicants are being turned away by nursing educator programs: Due to the aforementioned shortage of overall educational resources, there are not enough applicants being accepted into master’s or doctoral nursing programs. A lower admission rate leads to a lower graduation rate, ultimately resulting in a shortage of qualified nursing educators.

What Is Being Done to Solve the Shortage?

Across America, many states are organizing initiatives to put an end to the nursing shortage. Certain universities are offering potential nurses incentives, such as student loan forgiveness and guaranteed fellowships, if they agree to teach in the state where the university resides after graduation. Many nursing students seeking doctoral certification are being offered educational funding and tuition support from national scholar programs.

Through the American Association of Colleges of Nursing’s expansion of the Nursing Central Application Service, NursingCAS, more vacancies in nursing schools throughout the country are being filled across a variety of programs. The expansion of this service has already increased the number of graduates in both registered nursing and advanced practice registered nursing programs.

In addition to finding external sources for more educational funding to alleviate their budgetary restrictions, nursing schools around the United States are designing smarter strategies for their use of federal funding. Since there is currently a higher demand and growth expectancy for primary care and advanced practice nurses, schools are addressing the shortage issue by supporting more students in higher nursing degree programs.

With smarter systematic operation and budget strategies, nursing schools can put an end to the crisis. Through the increased dedication and perseverance of nursing students and a continued emphasis on the importance of quality nursing education, more nursing students and instructors will be able to receive the qualifications they seek and the careers they seek.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.


  1. I would like to throw a curve ball…not sure this has been mentioned. I worked as Faculty at a College of Nursing teaching both clinical and theory. This was a career goal of mine since I graduated nursing school. What a disappointment! Not the teaching part (I love to teach), but the lack of support from the higher-ups who operate on some delusional planet who wish to support a generation of “snowflakes.” The discretion and authority is not given to the Faculty, it is given to the students. Instructors are not supported in holding students accountable on any level. The students are not to “feel anxiety or stress.” I disagree! Stress is part of Nursing; part of any profession; part of life. So we are not to expect a nurse to feel stressed or anxious when responding to a “code.” If you do hold a student accountable; then you have the parent calling the school. This is non-sense. We are cultivating a profession of pansies. Furthermore, if a student is not meeting the objectives (in clinical) the Instructor must “provide for every opportunity for the student to succeed even if it is the last day” at the eleventh hour and faculty must write a novel on why he/she is not passing. Wrong! How many patients do we want to kill before we start requiring and mandating the cream of the crop. In my humble opinion, nursing schools should require face-to-face interviews, prior work as a CNA, and volunteer work. These kids come in (and yes there are stellar students) not being able to communicate with anyone but “Siri,” and the person at the Starbucks counter, they have no interest in working hard or really caring about human lives, but rather they are there because they think it will be an easy, good pay check. Pretty sad. And the individuals at the top who live on other planets enable this despicable behavior. Because (this was mentioned previously) it is ALL about how many students we can graduate; how much $$$ we can make for the University (not the Faculty); and what % of our graduating nurses can pass the NCLEX (which we teach to by the way because no one is allowed to fail). Incompetence at the Highest Level. Until this profession defines OUR core values, holds firm to our convictions, and takes a seat at the “Head” of the table, this non-sense will continue. Just as it has for the past 100 years. Very sad. I appreciate your comments…

  2. Ya, the title should be “ The 1%(big pharma) is destroying the nursing profession, it all trickles down, nursing is no different. Yes, there is definitely destruction from within. Let’s ban together and turn this demon around.
    We have the power!

  3. Sometimes it is not the fault of the college as who can teach and who cannot teach. Several State Boards of Nursing require that the Nursing Instructors have MSN degrees to teach LPN, ADN or BSN students and PHD or DNP to teach BSN or higher level nursing students. If you are planning to become a Nursing Instructor, you need to check and see what are the requirements for nursing instructors in your state or the state that you want to teach in. I had a friend who could teach in one state but could not teach in an adjoining state as the requirements were different. I taught LPN students for 2 years while having only a BSN until the state I live in changed the requirements and I had to have a MSN to teach nursing. Unfortunately circumstances did not allow me to go to school for a MSN so I had to return to bedside nursing.

  4. Just like with management, a bunch of initials after your name does not make you a good leader or a good manager. Any schools looking for good instructors should look no further than the bedside nurses at their local medical centers. Doesn’t matter how many initials they have after their name, a good nurse who loves her job, makes a good teacher.

  5. I agree with Susan. As a diploma graduate and BSN graduate, I wouldn’t trade my diploma program experience for any other.

  6. Nursing organizations still at it: destroying nursing as usual. They a composed of academia b/c they are given time off of their jobs to go to the meetings, and run for officer positions, while staff nurses are not. Results: they have all the power and all the say regarding the future direction of nursing.
    Most of those at the PHD level have little experience in hands on nursing, if any. They have NO business teaching student nurses in my opinion. Many of my PHD candidate instructors hadn’t touched a patient in a least twenty years! Everything the spew is theoretical.
    There is ABSOLUTELY NO REASON that a BSN nurse with hands on experience cannot exceptionally educate an AD student. They actually make BETTER instructors b/c they know what they are talking about and what they are doing.

    The rest of it is just academia attempting to extort more money for more degrees out of students in order to enrich the coffers of the universities. That is what it is REALLY all about. Follow the money!

    BTW: I have been saying this for at LEAST twenty-five years!!!

  7. I too think MSN level nurses should be able to teach and precept on a higher education level. It is also about time to re-re-evaluate the pay for these positions.

  8. I recently completed my MSN in Informatics, hoping to attain a teaching position. I was unhappy to realize that I should have went straight for the DNP if I wanted to teach at the collegiate. level. Nursing schools want a person to have both a doctorate AND teaching experience. How is one to gain experience, if no one will hire you at the MSN level? I have taken clinical positions in LTC and in women’s health in order to keep skills up,and am looking forward to teaching for Kaplan preparing students to pass the NCLEX. Regrettably I agree with most of my colleagues who find that university programs are not necessarily providing students with the skills to pass, and that the academic emphasis may in fact render them less likely than students in community college programs or ADN programs. Nursing education needs an overhaul from the top down, allowing MSN-level nurses to teach real skills and issues and forget requiring the DNP. As pointed out, some BSN students go on to earn their DNP and teach without much clinical experience. We do need to expand opportunities in ADN programs and not kick them out of acute care, as Susan Greene has said – clinical is key.

  9. I hope there is a job for me out there! I have 40+ years bedside experience as a psychiatric nurse and I am half way through an MSN program with an emphasis in nursing education. I’m ready for the cut in pay. I hope to pass on my love of psych nursing to the new students.

  10. Too much emphasis is placed on the educational credentials, and not enough placed on the experience and critical thinking skills of nurses who wouldn’t mind teaching. As an ADN ICU nurse I have had to precept new graduate BSN nurses who have NO clinical skills, because their 4 year programs did not allow them to have any hands-on experience. Perhaps the educational experience and the programs themselves need to be changed to reflect the fact that we have been in the midst of a nursing shortage for at least 15 years! There could surely be more flexibility in the clinical experience at the very least. No one wants to graduate feeling lost in their profession.

  11. One major element has been alluded to already–lack of respect for bedside nursing. Bedside nurses are paid the same no matter what the level of education (ADN, BSN, MSN) and pittance for experience (my most recent job that acknowledged education in starting pay rate gave me 15 cents an hour ($312 per year) for having a Master’s Degree AND a national certification in the field). There is no job advancement route for nurses like me who would prefer to stay at the bedside. To move up and gain in respect (and pay) you have to go down the APN road. Going to nursing school and getting your RN license has become the entry level for Advanced Practice, with many students coming in who never intend to work bedside as staff nurses. There’s nothing wrong with that if that is what a nurse wants, but when did it become the only acceptable route to get ahead?

    And then there is the financial reality of teaching. I obtained a Master’s degree specifically so that I could teach, then, with a 40% cut in pay and huge student debt (still being paid off 11 years later) I realized that couldn’t make ends meet without a second job. After my position was eliminated (for budgetary reasons) I have put in a number of applications for nursing instructor positions, but since I don’t have a doctorate I don’t qualify. How am I supposed to pay for a doctorate education while still paying off the now useless Master’s degree?

    • You probably know more that any one of those PhD coming out of school with very little experience clinically and or teaching. I think nursing is trying to RISE ABOVE somewhere or something, but they end up hurting the ones who have been there in the trenches and do want to advance and teach. It is all upside down. I know what I have seen and it is NOT a professional world within nursing. It is about look at me but what can they really do? I don’t see good teaching skills therefore you see students who don’t make it to the end and if they do, a lot do not pass NCLEX…..Nursing has to stop and take notice of the casualties that have occured and do this better.

    • I am experiencing the same problems. Teaching positions are mainly adjunct with no benefits. I am disappointed that I am not utilizing my MSN Educator degree. I decided to go on for a post Grad. NP certificate in psych. This will help me justify all the time and money spent on my initial MSN degree. I was also shocked by the low pay and demanding work load expected of nursing instructors. Working in the clinical field, I can more than double my income. I have been in nursing for 40 years. I have loved every minute of my career and would not change a thing. However, I have seen changes in health care leaning toward a,” for profit business” and away from a patient centered system. I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to experience nursing for what it is: patient centered, TLC, and time with each patient to help support and improve the recovery response rate.

  12. How about faculty who are (several) mistreated by those green troop millennial “wanna-be’s” in charge and don’t have administrative skills, common sense, or years of experience. Talk about low-level thinking, incivility, poor ethics, and vicious behaviors! This is why good teachers leave the job and nursing. I think this happens more than you think. How about not only eating their young but eating the smarter, better and experienced old. Nursing is self-destructive. I am at a higher level position now and would not set foot in another nursing environment after 35 years of impeccable experience and service both civilian and military. I am ashamed of being in the nursing profession, I no longer want to be associated, so start a civility survey to see how others have been treated. This could be a big issue you may not be aware of. Open your eyes!!!

  13. To Miriam Metz ( the above comments) my sentiments exactly! I retired 5 yrs after 50 yrs as a bedside nurse. My field was mostly med/surg.

  14. I’d return to school to earn my masters then doctorate immediately if it meant loan forgiveness. Current loan debt keeps me from pursuing what I’d love most to do—research and teaching.

  15. An Instructor is what I would like to achieve in my nursing career long term goal. And yes I am in my 50’s so it will be at least another 2 years until I finish school. I currently am an RN. But the cost of going back to school is an issue. Loan forgiveness would be great! I would start immediately.

  16. I agree that the title is misleading. I believe you do not have to be a PHD or DNP to teach beginning level nursing students. I applied at a local college for a nursing Instructor opening. I am MSN prepared. Much of the process was demeaning to me. The second issue is definitely the pay. It is substandard for the students being taught.

  17. I do believe that schools are pushing masters and doctoral programs to continue to collect tuition dollars. I fear another shortage of bedside nurses as schools promote advance practice. As an instructor and an apn ( after 30 yrs at the bedside) I find that students only want to be apn’s now, not to actually work as an rn or promote/improve that area of practice for any length of time.

  18. Certain students are entering the profession or the wrong reason. To them it’s a paycheck. They are not interested in the “calling” of a nurse. I have been teaching nursing students for over 5 years, after being an ER nurse for 33 years. The bedside became too demanding, with hospital administrators demanding more and more from bedside nurses. Nurses with decades of bedside experience are overlooked in favor of nurses who have had little or no bedside experience, but have that piece of paper that says they are a “Master” of nursing. Yet the cannot answer a practical question from a student. I had such an instructor.
    Requirements for teaching should include bedside experience. Teachers who go from the classroom to a classroom, in my opinion, are less competent o provide clinical instruction.

  19. Great article, but I think the title is inaccurate. Instructors are not causing the shortage. The problem is far more complex. A series of interrelated factors are driving the shortage, that mainly come from the fact that nursing is undervalued. Despite years of data showing the importance of nursing, we are not regarded as the essential professionals we are.

    • Agreed, the title has a negative connotation towards instructors. In our ADN program, one of our biggest hurdles is finding clinical spots in acute care and adjuncts qualified to facilitate them.

  20. And some nurses are not as nice or really want to help others in the nursing fields to improve and advance. Not only with the RN and ext.

    I always see they talk about the nurses all the time. But what about the Certified Nursing Asst. They are really looked down upon . They all ways thank the nurses but what about the Aide. No one ever thinks and cares about them and what all they have to do at the job. But everyone talks about how much poop and ext that has to be done.
    And some nurses I found feel like once they went to school for nursing. Cleaning poop is beneath them. I am a Certified Nursing Asst. The things that I have heard and seen toward CNA’s really turns people away from being a CNA as well as trying to become a Nurse. As a Aide no one sees or cares about your opinion and knowledge. Because we spend the most time with the patients. Training is limited for techs. So why do we have CNA if we do not matter. Just once a year during CNA week.

  21. Almost 40 years ago I taught nursing at the BSN level. I taught in the last course students took before graduation. That included 3 full days of clinic per week plus classroom lecture one day per week. I had to be a member of college of nursing committees and of a university committee. When all was said and done, I was working 70 to 80 hours per week for 9 months per year. On traditional holidays I only spent a couple of hours with my family because I had so much student paperwork to read and grade. My salary was $13, 500.00 per 9 month year. My take home pay after taxes and money withheld for state teachers retirement was about $800.00 per month. I was permitted to teach in the 3 months of the summer if: 1) I was qualified to teach a course offered for the summer, 2) if there were enough students who wanted to take that course at that time, 3) if no other instructor with more seniority than I wanted to teach the course and, 4) I was pushed to get a nursing doctorate, but I was not to get it at the university where I taught, where courses would be free for me; I was required to go elsewhere because the faculty was getting, “too inbred” with degrees from the same university.

    Every year when I met with the Dean of the nursing college I told her the salary was terrible and that it needed to improve. She always answered the efforts were being made to improve salary, but it never improved during the 4 years I was there. There were 33 faculty members and the year that I left 11 of them left as well. I got a pay raise (about $5,000.00) by working at an area hospital as a bedside nurse.

  22. Perhaps you should retitle your article. Instructors aren’t causing the shortage but a lack of instructors (for all of the reasons you cite in the 2nd section) is contributing to it. When I was a Director of an ADN Program, I couldn’t match salaries to those of service/staff nursing d/t budgetary constraints from the school. So those with families couldn’t support themselves! Why should an experience, degrees faculty member get paid a pittance, when their grads get out of school making far more than their faculty don’t? I see a great dichotomy of pay b/w community colleges nationwide vs. 4-year & health science center faculty (who get paid twice what community college faculty do in most cases). When are the state funders & community college administrators going to wake up? So please reticle this piece!!

  23. This is great to hear. I have a daughter at University of Florida who is an exceptional candidate, but they did not accept her in the Nursing program after two years of prep there. 800 applicants, accepted 134 students! Their reasons were exactly what you listed here. I say bring back a scenario similar to my 3year diploma program, where we spent long hours working alongside the nurses until eventually we were caring for a couple of patients on our own, then acted as Charge Nurse as well, learning leadership. My CRNA program was same, long hours of cases and call … clinical is key. Advanced degree nurses need to shadow those already trained as well. Give those who offer shadowing a bonus, recognition, make Nursing proud!


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