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Nursing

Solving Texas’ Nursing Shortage

An aging population means fewer nurses and more need. Adding nurse educators needs to be part of the solution.

Texas faces an unprecedented nursing shortage, brought on by aging baby boomers, and their need for healthcare grows. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated that shortage as the healthcare workers are under unprecedented pressure. 

In 2016, The Texas Center for Nursing Workforce Studies projected that Texas would have an unmet demand of 60,000 registered nurses by 2030. Texas has the second-worst nursing shortage in the U.S, behind California, and by 2030 is projected to have a deficit of 15,900 nurses. 

Now more than ever, Texas needs nurses who are also culturally competent and trained to enter an integrated health care system, says Dr. Lance Garrison, the Campus Dean for the Dallas Campus of The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. The new nursing school hopes to address the shortage in Texas by attracting students and producing healthcare professionals. “We built our curriculum around training the next generation of nurses so that they can be prepared to work in this increasingly challenging healthcare space,” Garrison said. “The idea behind our programs is that our nurses are being trained to understand the power of the mind-body connection with respect to treatment.” 

Workforce experts have for years warned of an impending shortage, and the COVID-19 pandemic has been a wake-up call. “Some of our nurses get sick, or they get exposed, and they’re required to go into mandatory 14-day quarantine,” Garrison says. “The back end of that is that hospitals are already running short. It’s exacerbated the shortage and created all sorts of logistical and planning challenges for our hospitals.” 

Garrison says there are two leading causes to the shortage: age and the lack of qualified nursing faculty. 

According to Garrison, about 25 percent of nurses in the state are 59 years or older, meaning they’re close to retirement. By 2030, 1 in 5 citizens will be 65, and as the general population gets older, a larger number of healthcare problems arise that need to be dealt with and are creating a real challenge in addressing the shortage. 

The state’s demand for nurse practitioners is expected to grow 46.3% — from 13,826 in 2015 to 20,227 by 2030. According to the Texas Center for Nursing Workforce Studies, approximately 25% of the demand will not be met. In Texas, demand for certified nurse-midwives is projected to show an unmet need of 80% by 2030. 

If the problem is a shortage of nurses, shouldn’t we incentivize more people to become nurses? 

A critical bottleneck is that nursing programs often receive more qualified applicants than they have the resources to accept. In short, there’s a nursing faculty shortage. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the average age of nursing faculty with a doctoral degree for professor, associate professor, and assistant professor was 62.4, 57.2, and 51.2 years, respectively. As a result, nurse educators are retiring in more significant numbers than other career tracks.  

“One of the solutions is finding ways to prepare more nursing education faculty and to incentivize faculty who could be teaching in our schools, who are in clinical settings to come back to university settings like ours, to participate in training the next generation of nurses along with us,” Garrison said. 

To improve the shortage, incentives need to be offered to nursing educators, says Gwendolyn Gaston, the associate vice president of nursing program development and chief nursing officer at College of Nursing and Advanced Health Professions at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. 

  • Offer loan repayment program for advanced education.
  • Have a mentorship program for new and newly hired faculty. 
  • Develop programs to decrease workload by having teaching assistant roles to grade papers, tutor, proctor exams, file, etc. 
  • Reach out to retired nursing faculty to augment faculty workload and offer part-time benefits to the retired faculty who could fill in for FMLA, maternity leave, grant writing, and co-teaching. 

Garrison hopes for a solution that provides an integrated, innovative, and immersive approach to healthcare education with the best faculty. He says their graduates are “ready to impact the lives and shape what the future of healthcare is going to look like in the next 10-15 years and beyond.” 

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