The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Few teachers results in few graduates

Hospitals are pushing the "help" button, but nursing schools around the country are unable to answer the call.

A nationwide shortage in the nursing profession is leading to fewer teachers, despite an increased number of nursing applicants.

The shortage in the College of Nursing is a current concern and will become worse as more nurses retire or return to full-time jobs at hospitals, said Lea Acord, dean of the college.

The nursing shortage began a few years ago, said Patricia Schroeder, senior vice president and chief nursing officer of the Covenant Healthcare system. The nursing profession has traditionally been a female-dominated profession, but as other opportunities for women have increased over the last 20 years, Schroeder said, enrollment in nursing programs suffered.

"Nurses are knowledge workers, and there are physical demands as well," Schroeder said.

Budget cuts in hospitals lowered the number of nurses on staff, but eventually, the need for nurses became clear, causing the profession to enjoy popularity again, Acord said.

Salaries have risen too. But the average age of a nurse is 48, and many are approaching retirement age, so Schroeder expects the shortage to be much worse in five to seven years.

"I believe this is a public health crisis," she said.

The College of Nursing, like other schools across the country, feels the shortage of professors. Teachers either retire or return to full-time work in a health care setting, Acord said. However, the situation could be worse.

"Either people want to teach, or they don't, and we're lucky that many do," Acord said.

Filling open teaching positions is difficult. The difference in pay between a hospital job and teaching can be up to $30,000. Plus, the expectations of the college could be a deterrent, Acord said.

"We only pay faculty for nine months and then expect them to do research during the summer," Acord said.

When hiring for new staff, "many people who apply for faculty positions are also applying for other jobs," Acord said. Qualified candidates often wind up elsewhere.

Part-time faculty, who hold nursing jobs in addition to teaching a class, have filled in the gap, Acord said. The university employs 32 full-time and 32 part-time nursing professors. Ideally, the program should have two-thirds of the faculty working full-time, Acord said.

Even with the teaching shortage, nursing schools are full. At Marquette, there are 93 n the freshman class.

Nearly twice that many students were not accepted into the program, up 241 percent from last year, when 54 applicants were denied admission.

Applications were up 40 percent from last school year, according to Stephanie Nikolay, senior assistant dean in the admissions office.

Schroeder said all Wisconsin-area nursing programs have full enrollment, but that is not enough to assuage the problems.

Other schools are not facing a shortage of teachers. The Milwaukee School of Engineering's School of Nursing recently welcomed its largest fall enrollment, but the 10-year-old program is still small and doesn't require a large staff, said Kathleen McCann, director of media relations for MSOE. McCann said their smaller classes could explain why they have no teacher shortage.

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