U.S. universities receive grants for nursing programs

Jamie VanGeest

As Christine Nord rode the elevator to her nursing class, she offered her thoughts on nursing faculty shortages.

“I think it’s really sad, and it’s going to get worse if we don’t do something about it,” Nord said.

To address a nationwide shortage of nursing instructors, the U.S. Department of Labor awarded grants to 12 nursing schools nationwide last week.

The University’s Nursing School has nearly doubled its enrollment since 2000, but it hasn’t been able to increase its faculty, said Joanne Disch, interim dean of the Nursing School and director of the leadership center.

Across the nation, 11,000 qualified applicants to nursing schools were turned away because there wasn’t enough faculty to teach them.

According to the American Medical Association, by 2020, the United States will experience a 20 percent shortage in the number of nurses needed in the country’s health-care system.

The Labor Department’s grant is worth $12 million, and colleges will use some of that money to train more nursing instructors.

Approximately 230 nursing schools applied for the grant. The recipients of the award include the University of Utah and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee will use the money to reduce the training period for nurse educators by 18 months to 24 months.

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee plans on making it easier for people with associate degrees in nursing or bachelor’s degrees in other fields to get their master’s in nursing, said Sally Lundeen, the nursing dean at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Kersten Anderson, an administrator for the Nursing School’s research resource center, said the University of Minnesota did not apply for the grant.

“I’m not sure if the nursing faculty considered or were aware of the request for an application,” Anderson said.

Applying for this grant might be difficult because it required an industry biotechnology partner to match funds ranging from $325,000 to $500,000.

“It’s hard to find a partner to go through the highly regulated and challenging application process on such short notice,” Anderson said.

This grant didn’t give applicants as much time as other government grants.

Disch said three factors affect the shortages in nursing faculty members.

One is that many of the nursing faculty members are near retirement.

“In 10 years, huge numbers of people will retire,” Disch said. “The average nurse is in their 40s, and the average faculty member is in his or her 50s.”

Another factor is that nursing schools do not have enough faculty members.

“There has been an explosion of people in nursing, but there just aren’t enough faculty,” Disch said.

Disch said the final factor is financial. Often, nurses make more money in a clinical setting than in teaching.

The University of Minnesota is recruiting nursing students from across the state to join its master’s program in nursing.