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Nursing Schools Aim To Increase Enrollment And Educators

By CityTownInfo.com Staff
July 24, 2009

Nursing schools in Maryland, Florida and California are taking steps to stave off a severe nursing shortage that experts expect will occur within the next decade.

In Maryland, $15.5 million--financed through contributions from healthcare providers, insurers and individuals--will be provided to 17 nursing schools through the Maryland Hospital Association over the next five years. Institutions that will receive the grants include Montgomery College, Prince George's Community College, Anne Arundel Community College, the College of Southern Maryland, Howard Community College and the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing.

"We're getting older, getting ready to retire, and the demand is going to increase," explained John M. Colmers, secretary of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, who was quoted in The Washington Post.

According to Catherine Crowley, vice president of the Maryland Hospital Association, the state will require 10,000 more nurses to meet the needs of the aging population and to replace the many nurses expected to retire within the next few years. Yet the problem, she explained, is a lack of qualified nursing educators and a lack of available open slots for students in nursing schools. The funds are aimed at helping nursing schools accept more students and hire more nursing educators.

In Florida, a recent report by the Florida Center for Nursing indicated that the state will also face a nursing shortage within the next decade. "Shortages in nursing are cyclical. They tend to respond to economic drivers," noted Mary Lou Brunell, executive director of the Florida Center for Nursing, who was quoted in The Orlando Sentinel. "This shortage is different. It's not driven by the economy, but by an aging population--both nurses and patients."

Yet as in Maryland, staving off Florida's crisis would require expanding nursing schools and hiring more nursing educators. In 2007-2008, more than 12,000 qualified applicants were turned away from state nursing education programs in Florida due to lack of space.

The Sentinel reports that the University of Central Florida's nursing school is addressing the problem by working with local community colleges to retrain nurses to work as teachers. Additionally, they offer teaching opportunities to nursing staff from local hospitals. According to Judith Rutland, coordinator of nursing education at UCF, school administrators have met with healthcare and government officials to try to increase the number of teachers.

In California, the Senate Education Committee last week approved Assembly Bill 867, which is aimed at ultimately increasing the number of nurses in the state. The bill will allow California State Universities to offer doctorate of nursing programs so that the institutions will be able to train teachers of nurses.

But such efforts are not likely to help significantly unless nursing students are given the financial incentive to become educators, notes California's Ventura County Reporter. "The real issue," the article points out, "is that a career in education just isn't worth it to many nurses looking to work their way up in the healthcare system."

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