Nursing schools face shortage of trained instructors

Friday, May 17, 2019, Vol. 43, No. 20
By Hollie Deese

Nurses are needed, but nursing school enrollment is not growing fast enough to keep up with demand, American Association of Colleges of Nursing report shows.

The problem: There aren’t enough nursing school professors, and a significant percentage of the nursing workforce is getting ready to retire.

“Nursing: Supply and Demand through 2020,” a recent report by Georgetown University, projects the economy will create 1.6 million nursing job openings through 2020 but will face a shortfall of roughly 200,000 nursing professionals. Between 1980 and 2008, the study finds, the number of applications to nursing schools increased by more than 80 percent, but nursing schools lack the faculty, facilities and training sites to match the growing demand.

Volunteer State Community College recently announced a new nursing degree program approved by the Tennessee Board of Nursing that will prepare students to sit for licensure as a registered nurse. This new program will award an associate of applied science degree in nursing and will be held on both the Gallatin and Livingston campuses.

“Vol State has offered pre-nursing for many, many years,” says Eric Melcher, coordinator of public relations and marketing at Vol State. “We have a lot of partnerships with area universities that have nursing programs. What we found was there was a real interest in being able to have a two-year program that could lead to be able to sit for your RN certification.”

Linda Gibson has been hired as the new dean of nursing at Vol State, and students will be able to use the tuition-free TN Promise program for new high school graduates or the TN Reconnect program for adults who don’t already have a college degree.

“There is a nursing shortage in the Vol State service area,” Gibson says. “Nursing jobs nationally are expected to increase by 15 percent, a much higher rate than most occupations. The pay is also attractive with a median RN salary in Tennessee of $67,490.”

The first cohort will start classes June 10, and graduates will be eligible to apply to take the National Council Licensure Examination.

“We’re picking students as we speak,” Melcher says. “We’re hiring faculty as we speak. It’s been kind of crazy getting it all done this semester, but it’s launching June 10. The response is tremendous. After we announced we had some 20,000 or 30,000 hits on our social media pages about it.”

Tennessee State University offered a nursing degree program on the Vol State Gallatin campus until the university suspended it two years ago. Vol State will continue to offer a pre-nursing program which includes partnerships with area universities.

“It’s been something that our students have asked for, for many years,” Melcher adds. “We have such a good reputation for pre-nursing. Literally, thousands of students who’ve taken our pre-nursing courses and gone on to other programs, we thought it’d be nice to have our own program.”

Now hiring: construction workers

In East Tennessee Knox County Schools recently hosted a career fair for high schoolers at Crown College School of Trades and Technology to highlight construction jobs, one of the fastest growing industries in the state, and, like nursing, is expected to have an even bigger need as older workers to retire.

The University of Tennessee’s Construction Science program is a concentration within the environmental and soil science degree with a course of study designed for students for entry into a range of management careers related to the construction industry.

Doug Lawyer, vice president of economic development with the Knoxville Chamber of Commerce, explains they are seeing a lot of advanced manufacturing job openings, with a huge demand for welding throughout the region.

“Everyone’s struggling to figure out what the right way is to fill these jobs,” Lawyer says. “I think the local community colleges and schools are cranking out what they can, but a lot of them are at capacity right now.

“Employers are doing what they can. There’s a lot of job fairs going on. I think some of the starting wages, hourly rates have gone up a little bit to be more attractive.”

Lawyer says the chamber is partnering with Knox County Schools – specifically the career and technical education programs within those schools – with a program to help high school principals understand real world job demands and help align those principals with their CTE curriculum and with what the major employers in their backyard need.

“We take teachers from Knox County schools and place them into what we call externships, specific for CTE teachers,” Lawyer continues. “For example, a teacher that’s teaching coding at the high school level, we’ll drop them into a software development firm in Knoxville for two solid days as kind of a job shadow, and then the third day they get together and write a curriculum based upon what they learned, and then deploy that in the classroom this coming fall.”

The program is in its third year and has consistently grown in numbers. This summer 60 teachers will go through the program. The first year 15 took advantage of the plan.

“It’s exposing teachers to real world applications of what they’re teaching, and it helps those teachers to understand what those jobs look like here in Knoxville so they can spark a student’s mind that might be sitting in 10th, or 11th, or 12th grade who is trying to figure out what they want to do when they grow up,” Lawyer says.

“It’s that career awareness and then exposing teachers to those real world experiences.”