RALEIGH (July 21, 2021) – There’s no shortage of people who want to be nurses. And there’s no shortage of people who want to hire them.
The shortage is a shortage of instructors – largely because they can make more money being a nurse than teaching students how to nurse.
“When you can make more to do the job than you can to teach people how to do the job, and that gap grows, then you’re in trouble,” Dr. Scott Ralls, President of Wake Technical Community College and former president of the NC Community College System, says in the accompanying video.
North Carolina community colleges do a remarkable job, Ralls says, but their Achilles heel is “what we pay our people.”
“When that differential is like this,” he says, spreading his hands apart, “then we’re in trouble. And we’re in trouble. And for nursing, it is particularly that way.”
DR. ERIN FRAHER, Director of the Program on Health Workforce Research and Policy at the Sheps Center at UNC Chapel Hill, says there is indeed a shortage of nursing instructors in North Carolina. That’s partly due to a wave of retirements, as many industries face.
But community colleges in particular face chronic faculty shortages because they can’t pay instructors as much as other institutions can, Fraher says. Even universities face shortages because it’s often more lucrative to work as a nurse than to teach.
In addition to the faculty shortage, says Ralls, there’s also a shortage of clinical space in hospitals and other health-care facilities where nurses can train with real patients.
BUT THE DEMAND from both employers and students is undeniable.
“Our graduates walk out of here with jobs,” Ralls says.
“There’s way more demand for more nurses coming through us than we have slots for,” he says. “… There’s way more students who want to get into a nursing program like ours than we’re able to accept – so automatically, there’s a mismatch.
“We talk around it. But you know, at some point we probably do all have to collectively step up and say, ‘What could we do?’ Because when you reach points like a pandemic or other times like now, you say, ‘Why do we have that?’” Ralls says.
“It’s just been a fundamental challenge that has been there not just in the last couple of years, but over the last several decades.”
Glossary of Nursing Terms: