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Five Ways to Fix the Nursing Shortage

Jeff Morrow

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Online Nursing Schools

Already there are dozens of fully-accredited, highly regarded nursing schools offering their programs online to already practicing nurses who want to earn their RN or BSN online. Academic training occurs online while clinical training is completed locally. Clinical opportunities are abundant and often lead to employment offers for nurses.

Some distinct advantage opening more online nursing schools will resolve the limited capacity of current nursing schools. Teaching online increases the capacity of current nursing schools, nurse educators can be more productive and teach more students, programs are less expensive, and most of these newly formed nursing school have no wait lists.

Schools like Indiana State, named by Princeton review as one of the best schools in the Mid-West, offers their National League of Nurses and regionally accredited program online. Jacksonville University which for the third year in a row was named by US News and World Report as one of America's best colleges offers their Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and regionally accredited nursing school online.

What you can do: If you are an aspiring nurse, consider attending an online nursing school. If you are already a student at a school that doesn't offer an online program, talk to your dean and show them the online success that other schools are experiencing.

Teach More Nurse Educators

In January of 2007, Tennessee Governor Philip Bredesen launched a $1.4 million campaign to fund a scholarship program to help registered nurses earn degrees needed to teach nursing. A few months earlier, Illinois did the same to ensure that the state could educate, recruit and retain nurses.

The capacity for most nursing programs to expand is limited by the ability of qualified nurse educators. However the number of programs teaching current nurses the skills to teach aspiring nurses is not enough. Through a combinations of pubic and private incentives and partnerships, schools need to increase their capacity to teach more nurse educators.

By raising the effectiveness of the Tennessee and Illinois programs to other states and the Federal government, more nurse educators would have the opportunity to teach.

What you can do: If you are a nurse with experience, look to become a nurse educator. There are many lucrative positions and the hours and pay are better than what you might be enjoying now. In any case, it is a great way to not only give back, but to augment your current income.

Change the Nursing Laws

In 2002, the Nurse Reinvestment Act was passed that allowed new and expanded programs that target the nursing shortage in an effort to reduce it. It is important that the government must fund these programs and expand the Nurse Faculty Loan Program, Nurse Scholarship Program and others. Increase the the percentage and number of foreign trained nurses to enter the United States.

The percentage of foreign trained nurses in the US is far less than most of us think it is. The fact is that there are many very well trained nurses who wish to work in the United States. The process for screening well qualified candidates is already in place. The biggest barrier is the limitations on the number of nurses allowed into the United States.

What you can do: Encourage your employers to sponsor more foreign trained nurses. Let your congressional representative know that you no longer want unreasonable caps placed on working visas for nurses.

Capital Grants to Schools

In an effort to increase the number of students and nursing faculty, many states are beginning to offer capital grants to hire and retain nursing staff, purchase new equipment, enhance audiovisual ability, and recruit students.

What you can do: Write your state and congressional representative about the successes of other state programs for the hiring and retention of nursing and help to get similar programs in place.

Educational Strategies

In a study that appeared in Health Affairs, the study authors found that 97 percent of hospitals were using education strategies to address the shortages of nurses at the hospitals. These strategies included partnering with nursing schools, subsidizing salaries, reimbursing the nurses for advancing their education and providing flexibility to allow staff to attend classes that can further their career. Already the private sector is doing what it does best, squeezing the most productivity out of a situation that needs it. Best practices can be shared among the different organizations.

What you can do: Work with your current hospital to make them aware of the options available to them. Increases in productivity will justify the capital outlays to get the programs started.

Education is at the core of solving the nursing shortage in the United States. In a regulated profession like nursing, it is impossible to create more nursing programs to meet the current demand in a short period of time. However, there are ways to expand the current capacity of a school's nursing program by opening up their program online. Along with training more nurse educators and hiring foreign trained nurses, there are many options to solving the nursing shortage.

Find a listing of all nursing schools in the United States, and listings of the top 10 online nursing schools at


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