What's behind national nursing shortage crisis? Not enough educators to teach new nurses

ByDenise Dador KABC logo
Thursday, June 29, 2023
Nursing shortage: New bill would fund more educators in nursing school
California Rep. Adam Schiff is sponsoring a bill called the Support Access to Nursing School Act that would fund more instructors in nursing school and help address the nationwide nursing shortage.

LOS ANGELES -- Without more incoming nurses to replace those who are retiring, experts predict U.S. hospitals will have a shortage of more than half a million nurses by 2027.

This will no doubt have an impact on everyone who receives health care at hospitals, schools, clinics, doctor's offices and more. However, it's not about a lack of enthusiasm for nursing, but rather a lack of opportunities to learn.

The global spread of COVID-19 was a punishing time for nurses.

"I think the pandemic itself was a real test of our resilience," said Chris Lee, a registered nurse at UCLA Health.

Despite this scary chapter, Lee said he comes across many young people who want to become nurses, but few get the opportunity to enter a training program.

"We're seeing high levels of rejections to these institutions because of the lack of resources for education, the lack of educators and also the lack of investment into qualified programs," he said.

Cerritos College nursing program director and educator Kelli Brooks said they receive far more applications every year than they can enroll.

She said it's the same story everywhere; far more applications than slots available.

"We might receive here at Cerritos College approximately 700 applications for 100 admission spots," Brooks said.

Few spots due to few teachers, and if a nurse wants to become faculty, there aren't enough educators to instruct those who want to teach.

Brooks said higher education programs around the country have about 2,200 vacancies that can't be filled.

"Therefore, they were turning away about 78,000 qualified licensed nurses who wanted to go back to school to become nursing faculty," she said.

California Rep. Adam Schiff said part of the challenge in attracting nursing educators is that you can make more money being a nurse than training nurses.

It's why Schiff along with Rep. Nanette Barragan introduced proposed legislation called the Support Faculty and Expand Access to Nursing School Act.

It would provide federal grants to nursing schools to hire more faculty and offer them competitive salaries.

"If we can't train people to enter the profession, then as more and more retire, and a lot of our nursing workforce is aging out, we're not going to have new nurses to take their place," Schiff said.

The bill would also provide funding for clinical preceptors who oversee nursing students as they train in the hospital. Brooks said everyone has a vested interest in making sure that enough trained nurses enter the workforce.

"It does speak to the stability of patient outcomes, and we all will be a patient at some time of our life," Brooks said.

The Nursing Act bill has been sent to the Energy and Commerce Committee.

Both Schiff and Barragan hope to build more support for its passage.