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Why are Record Number of Applicants Turned Away from Nursing Programs

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The American Association of Colleges of Nurses reports that in 2008, a record 41,385 qualified applicants were turned away by nursing programs due to either a lack of nurse educators, clinical sites, classroom space and/or budget constraints. This number includes nearly 7,000 MSN and PhD applicants.

At the same time, the good news is that BSN enrollment numbers have also continued to rise since 2001. However, in 2008, the increase was only 2.2%; perhaps indicating that schools have just about reached their maximum capacities. Prior to 2001, enrollment in nursing programs had been declining from 1995-2000. The events of 9/11 influenced a great number of Americans to seek careers in healthcare.

The number of students successfully completing their nursing education has also risen steadily since 2001. The increase was 8.7% from 2007-2008. Schools have successfully taken measures to screen applicants carefully to improve this success rate. Many schools require applicants to have some experience in patient care such as working as a CNA, EMT or MA. This exposure has prepared them for the nursing field.

Doctoral programs reported a small increase in enrollment as well as successful graduation numbers from 2007-2008, but MSN programs reported a decline. These numbers significantly impact the number of nurse educators being trained to help ease the nursing shortage.

The current doctoral candidates are not necessarily preparing to become nurse educators, but rather nurse researchers. This is an area of great need as well according to the AACN who encourages this growth pattern. Nurse researchers help to provide evidence of need for change in areas such as working conditions, quality of patient care as well as to substantiate the need for continued programs such as the Title VIII Nurse Workforce monies to support nursing education of clinicians, researchers, and nurse educators.

Congress has taken action to address the critical need for nurses and to assist with nursing education issues with the NEED Act (Nurse Education Expansion and Development Act) which was introduced in the 110th Congress and again in the current 111th. President Obama also worked with the Congress to enact legislation as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to address the nursing shortage and to provide funds in the 2010 FY budget.

The current nursing education enrollment numbers are not sufficient to address the projected shortage of nurses (1 million by 2020) and meet the needs of the American public. Without nurses, no health care reform program has a chance to survive. This issue needs to remain on the front burner and be addressed continuously until a solution is reached for this crisis.

By Kathy Quan RN, BSN, PHN, contributing author for RNdegrees.net. Kathy is the author of The Everything New Nurse Book and the owner/author of TheNursingSite.com. ©2009 by RnDegrees.net


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