3 Reasons Why Nursing Schools are Turning Away Candidates During a Nursing Shortage

  1. Did you know that over 56,000 qualified nursing school applicants were turned away in 2017? This number is shocking by itself but added to the fact that we are in the midst of a nursing shortage, makes it downright confusing. Learn why this is happening at nursing schools across the country.

    3 Reasons Why Nursing Schools are Turning Away Candidates During a Nursing Shortage

    Over 56,000 qualified nursing school applicants were turned away in 2017. You read that right - 56,000. This is happening while hospitals and clinics continue to report a nursing shortage. According to Becker's Hospital Review, some of these qualified applicants are graduating high school with a 3.5 GPA or higher. These are candidates that will likely be successful nursing students.

    You may be wondering why this is happening in the middle of a nursing shortage. Let's discuss the statistics, reasons for the problem, and a few solutions.

    The Statistics

    Here are a few concerning statistics about the number of aspiring nurses being turned away each year by nursing programs:

    • The National League of Nurses reported that up to 45% of ADN applicants and 36% of BSN applicants were turned away in 2014
    • Cabrillo College in Aptos, California reported having hundreds on their wait list for a 60-seat nursing program
    • Many schools are saying that applicants will be on wait-lists for up to six years and some schools are discontinuing wait lists altogether

    The Reasons

    To fix the problem, you need to understand why thousands of students are turned down each year by nursing schools across the country.

    Not Enough Instructors

    Nursing faculty positions go unfilled year and year. In fact, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing reported in their Special Survey on Vacant Faculty positions that the United States has an annual national nursing faculty vacancy rate of slightly over 7%. This equates to about two teachers for every nursing program out there. And, over 90% of these vacancies require or prefer the nurse filling the position to have a doctoral degree.

    The survey went on to break down the vacancies by region. The most substantial number of vacancies can be found in the Midwest, with nearly 10% of all faculty positions remaining unfilled. Just behind that region was the South (9.7%), North Atlantic (9.5%), and finally the West (9%). If you look at the issue by type of institution - 9.6% of all vacancies are found at public colleges. And, one more break down tells us that the largest number of vacancies are in Baccalaureate programs (14.6%).

    Do Nurses Want to Be Instructors?

    Being a nursing instructor may be of interest to many nurses until they begin doing their homework about the position and salaries. Up to 18% of all faculty positions do not have a tenure system at the institution, and another 32.6% of the jobs just don't qualify. The amount of education required for these vacant positions appears to be another barrier. Over 22% of all vacant positions required a doctoral degree.

    The special report by the AACN also reports that many schools have insufficient funds to hire new faculty. And, in some schools, the administration doesn't support the additional faculty positions, even though they are turning away potential students.

    Clinical Space Shortage

    All programs require a significant amount of hands-on experience in a clinical setting. Finding nursing units available for clinicals can be a challenge for nursing programs. If we had enough faculty, would they receive the training they needed? The answer is probably, no.

    Many schools are reporting that there are a limited number of clinical spaces for students to get this experience. And, finding preceptors in specialty areas can be another barrier. This has further compounded the need to turn away qualified nursing school applicants.

    Higher Clinical Nurse Salaries

    As clinical nursing salaries continue to grow, nursing faculty salaries have not been able to compete. Up to 33.9% of schools with faculty vacancies reported that noncompetitive wages were to blame for the inability to fill the position. In fact, the AACN reported in March 2016 that a masters-prepared faculty member made an average of $77,022 per year. Compare this to a masters-prepared nurse practitioner salary of $87,000, and you can easily see why these positions are difficult to fill.

    The Answers

    Identifying the problem is only half the bottle. Let's explore a few solutions to this nursing dilemma.

    Bridge Programs

    Many nurses choose nursing as a second career. Or, they start out as an LPN or ADN and move up to a master's or doctoral prepared nurse later on in their career. Professionals can make these transitions with the use of bridge programs.

    These programs allow qualified candidates to continue their education when it's convenient for them. These programs have adopted an online format over the past several years, making it even easier for nurses to continue to work and advance their education. With the help of bridge programs, some of these faculty positions could be filled.

    Think Outside the Box for Clinical Sites

    As our healthcare environment moves away from extended hospital stays, nursing programs need to consider new locations for clinicals. Instructors are now turning to rehab centers and nursing facilities to gain exposure to patients who were once kept after surgeries and other procedures.

    Nursing jobs are changing too. Looking for preceptors in-home care, hospice, and other community-based settings is crucial for the future of nursing education. And, it gives students exposure to non-hospital nursing career options.

    Create a Competitive Salary Structure

    Teaching is such an essential career, yet, teachers across all industries seem to have lower paying salaries. There is undoubtedly a demand for more nursing instructors, so this needs to be rectified.

    If you are interested in pursuing a career as a nurse faculty member - you can increase your earning potential based on the location and type of school. You may also look at roles, such as nurse education director, to improve your salary.


    What are your thoughts about nursing schools turning away qualified applicants? Have you experienced a long wait-list or other issue related to starting your nursing education? We would love to hear your thoughts and experiences.
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    87 Comments

  3. by   Here.I.Stand
    Based on the number of new grads already being "turned away" for jobs during this alleged nursing shortage, would increasing nursing school admissions really be a good thing?
  4. by   middleagednurse
    Some areas of the country do have acute shortage of nurses, but not all areas.
  5. by   llg
    I've always questioned those statistics about nursing students being "turned away." Does anyone know how those figures are calculated? For example: if an applicant applies to 4 schools and gets rejected by 3 of them, but accepted by the 4th one ... is she in the numbers as someone who got turned away? Do the 3 different schools who rejected her each report her as someone who got turned away and she is counted 3 times? etc.

    Certainly, there are some regions in which there are not enough schools to handle all the possible students in that region ... but there are other schools with slots going unfilled. Do "good numbers" actually exist for this situation?
  6. by   elkpark
    Whether or not there is a shortage is a controversial question. I notice that the only reference that supports the author's statement that there is a shortage is in the Becker article linked, and the source is a representative of the AACN (which obviously has a vested interest in in increasing nursing schools and nursing school enrollment) quoting the BLS figure of a shortage of up to 1,000,000 nurses by 2022, not currently. While there are parts of the country currently experiencing shortages, there are also parts of the country where the market is entirely saturated and it is difficult for nurses to find jobs. It seems to me that the issue, at least currently, is more a matter of distribution of nurses than a real shortage.

    For what it's worth, the BLS page to which the Becker article links as a source for the future shortage says nothing about nursing specifically (it talks about "healthcare and social assistance" as an employment category, not specifically nursing), and nothing about any specific nursing shortage, now or in the future (I would guess that is a result of sloppy sourcing by the author of the Becker article). Additionally, you get different numbers depending on which government agency you ask. The BLS, Bureau of Labor Statistics, has predicted a shortage of up to 1 million RNs by 2022 (somewhere on their website; I'm not going to take the time to find it), but another federal government agency is predicting a national surplus. The US DHHS Health Resources Administration, which deals specifically with healthcare employment (unlike the BLS, which covers every kind of employment category) is predicting a significant surplus of RNs by 2030.

    "At the national level, the projected growth in RN supply (39 percent growth) is expected to exceed growth in demand (28 percent growth) resulting in a projected excess of about 293,800 RN FTEs in 2030."

    https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=...FIzvqvLxV6idri


    Guess we'll just have to wait and see which prediction turns out to have been more accurate.
    Last edit by elkpark on Aug 20
  7. by   doodlebuttRN
    In my area (northern Illinois), there is a huge nursing surplus due in part to an increase in small for profit schools, and I keep hearing about this "nursing shortage". When I graduated in 2003, when there actually was a shortage, I had my pick of jobs, each with competitive offers for salary, benefits, signing bonuses, and tuition reimbursement. Today, in my state, new grads from well established nonprofit schools and community colleges are having to start wherever someone will hire them, including home health and private duty (because our ever so thoughtful governor and his ilk, in their infinite wisdom, have eliminated the requirement for any experience to work with high acuity home bound Medicare/aid patients, but that is a different thread, I guess.) Anywho, I keep hearing this talk of a nursing shortage, but hospitals, LTACH, LtC, and other facilites have such a huge pool of applicants to choose from that they can easily hire whoever they want, and as such can ask for whatever experience level they want to. In my humble opinion, it is definitely not in the best interest of any new grad to work in home health or private duty right out of school with no experience. And I have seen many, many of these new nurses have no choice but to take the only job available. My friend had to move out of state to find a competitive job market as a new grad, and she is glad she did. I can't speak for anywhere else, but it seems this trend is more and more common, and it I is very unfortunate for those who have worked so hard to obtain their LPN or RN and to pass NCLEX. Just my 2cents
  8. by   Wonky215
    I think you're absolutely correct here. There is no nursing shortage, only inequitable distribution. It's even worse with NPs and PAs in primary care, with HHS also projecting a significant categorical surplus for all primary clinical occupations except MDs/DOs in every state by 2020. Nursing colleges just want money, and its damaged the profession, with schools like Walden and U. of Phoenix, etc. offering certified programs. I suspect any shortage in faculty will self-correct as the supply and demand mismatch becomes evident in the market place and student interest and enrollments decline...
  9. by   SmilingBluEyes
    There IS a shortage.

    Of nurses willing to put up with continuing worsening work conditions. Overwork, under-pay, too many patient assignments, Surveys that put patients in change and can slam a nurse for not giving a diabetic a chocolate cake, unappreciative administrators who only tell us when we are not performing "well enough".....I could go on .

    You get what I am saying.

    I think Gen Z/Millennial people are very savvy. They will work at a job that best suits them at the time and move on. Why shouldn't they? Loyalty is a one-way street in the corporate world. They know this.

    The future is scary. Currently, new nurses are made charge nurses or managers with less than 6 months' total experience. I fear for my loved ones or myself in the next 20 years and beyond, needing any competent nursing care. The Gen Z generation won't put up with what the prior generations have. They will move to greener pastures quickly and often. The crusty old bats will have retired/passed on. Scary indeed.
  10. by   tnbutterfly
    Regarding whether there is or isn't a nursing shortage now or will be in the future, I suggest you read this article. For those of you saying the OP has not provided adequate sources, this article has plenty of sources.

    Myth or Truth: The Story Behind the Nursing Shortage

    No one, including the naysayers, can predict the future. As far as the present, perhaps you need to talk to nurses who are working short-staffed, partly due to a lack of nurses. I know in my hospital, there is a great need for nurses and new grads ARE being hired.

    Everone is entitled to their opinion, but please remember to be respectful when posting your opinion and refrain from rude and insulting remarks.
  11. by   SmilingBluEyes
    I don't think challenging an essay (well written one by the way) is rude or out of line.

    People have differing sources that really do have very different perspectives.

    The future is in question; it's true that no one can predict it for sure.
  12. by   Jules A
    The only shortage I'm seeing is nursing students who actually want to be nurses.
  13. by   DowntheRiver
    I really hope this means that it will be easy to get a job in 2 years when I graduate with my MSN Education. Just started the program and love it, and look forward to teaching in the future. I have been recently diagnosed with a somewhat debilitating autoimmune disorder and can't be a floor nurse forever so it would be nice to be able to step away from the floor but still doing something I love.
  14. by   Wuzzie
    I'd love to teach. But I also like having a roof over my head and maybe some food.

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