Nurse teachers in low supply, extending nursing shortages

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A shortage of qualified personnel to instruct and train nurses is keeping enrollment at nursing schools low, exacerbating the nursing shortage gripping long-term care and other healthcare providers around the country.

The number nurses receiving doctoral degrees this spring was down 10% (to 419), according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.  There were around 3,500 students enrolled at the 88 U.S. nursing schools offering doctoral programs for the 2003-04 school year.

"We're just not producing enough potential nurse educators" and haven't for the last decade, said AACN President Jean Bartels. Although graduate-degree enrollments have edged up slightly recently, many higher-degreed nurses leave teaching to pursue higher paying opportunities in the business world, she noted.

AACN says that about 7% of the more than 10,000 full-time faculty positions at the country's 690 bachelor and graduate nursing programs are left vacant. More than 100 schools need more faculty members – almost 18,000 student applicants were turned away last year due to insufficient teaching resources, officials say.

The Honor Society of Nursing forecasts that the number of registered nurse vacancies will continue to grow, reaching 400,000 by 2012.