UW System plans to stop staff shortage

Nurses for Wisconsin starts showing results

Story by Courtney Roszak, Staff Writer

Last October, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing announced there were a total of 1,358 faculty vacancies in 662 nursing schools.

Across the country, multiple nursing schools and programs are having difficulty hiring staff members as those in the “baby boomer” generation reach their retirement age. The baby boomers are now in their mid-fifties so most plan to retire in the next 10 years. Dean of Nursing, Linda Young expects the shortage in nursing faculty and instructors to increase in the next ten years due to retirements.

“The mean age in Wisconsin for educators is 58,” Young said. “In the next seven years we are estimating to lose 60 percent of educators in Wisconsin. We have to replace that 60 percent, plus add an additional 30 percent.”

The UW System put together Nurses for Wisconsin to encourage nurses or nursing students to become nursing educators to help slow down or stop completely the shortage of educators.

The program is the result of a $3.2 million grant. The program works as an incentive. If nurses become educators, they can receive fellowships up to $60,000.

Nursing educator shortages are apparent across the country, even at UW-Eau Claire.

“We have been affected. We have not been able to fill faculty positions,” Young said.

However, the program, Nurses for Wisconsin, has already been showing results in Eau Claire faculty. Young has already hired two instructors who will be starting in fall of 2014. Both are using the fellowship incentive.

Due to the lack of staff in nursing professors the amount of students accepted into nursing programs nationwide is limited. Each semester Eau Claire accepts 40 applicants into their program.

For students to be considered for the nursing program they must have register as pre-nursing majors and have completed 30 credits. Overall students need to have a grade point average of at least a 3.0 and have completed at least three required natural science courses, two of the courses must be a lab, with at GPA of 2.50.

However, students who apply to be in the nursing program have GPAs higher than a 3.0, many students have a GPA higher than a 3.80. The Eau Claire nursing program accepts 40 students each semester into the nursing program. As of August first there was approximately 976 students in the nursing program ranging anywhere from pre-nursing to graduate school students.

Many potential nursing students, including Savannah Shortness, have worried at one point or another about the possibility of not getting accepted in to the competitive program.

“After the first couple of days of classes freshmen year I called my parents, and told them I did not think I could do this,” Shortness said. “I took the desire to get in and pushed it towards studying.”

The limited number of spots in the school of nursing is related to the shortage of educators. The staff needs to follow the state board restriction and keep the faculty-student ratio one to eight for clinical. They also do not want to raise class sizes higher.

If the Nurses for Wisconsin Program continues its success Young hopes that in the future, the school of nursing will be able to raise its accepted rate so more students get in. The worst-case scenario is that the shortage continues and the accepted number of students drops to less than 40.

Young, and others understand that it takes a lot for a nurse to become an educator. Many of the instructors work part time while also teach part time. Senior nursing student Denae Nygren recognizes that many of her instructors are still nurses. They work and teach but still go to work in a clinic or hospital.

“It takes a special kind of person to be a nursing instructor,” Nygren said.