Program aims to counter nurse shortage

Program aims to counter nurse shortage

To combat a nursing shortage that is predicted to increase to more than 1 million nurses by 2020, the College of Health and Human Sciences is focusing on student retention and graduate studies.Donna Tilley, associate professor and director of the Harris College of Nursing, said the college already has a high retention rate ranging from 85 to 100 percent, but she wants to be more aggressive in keeping students in nursing.

About 550 students are declared nursing majors, Tilley said, with about 110 graduates each year.

The college recently created the ACE program, Academic Excellence, which offers tutoring, test-taking strategies and study skills to help students with their grades, Tilley said.

Tilley said the program was designed to help students with any problems early on to make sure all nursing students graduate.

To help with the growing demand for nurses, nursing professor Dennis Cheek said TCU offers an accelerated baccalaureate nursing program that allows people with a degree in another field to get a nursing degree in 15 months.

“This year, we doubled the number of students we have accepted into our accelerated baccalaureate track,” said Paulette Burns, dean of the college.

Orpheulia Rivers, Student Nursing Association president, said retaining young nurses was also her main concern. Rivers, a junior nursing major, said the association acts as a support system and makes students “feel like they’re part of a professional organization.” It helps members get through school and find the right job, Rivers said.

The major causes of the shortage are the aging workforce, less nursing faculty and an increasing need for better healthcare, Tilley said.

With the baby boomer generation reaching its 60s, Tilley said, there will be an increased need for geriatric nurses and nurses to replace those retiring.

Nursing faculty is aging, as well. A November 2006 report from several Texas health organizations stated that over the next five to 15 years, 70 percent of Texas nursing instructors will retire.

Cheek said there are already too few instructors because nurses working in hospitals receive higher salaries.

Tilley said most nursing faculty members have a master’s degree, but a doctorate is required to get tenure and move to levels above that of assistant professor.

The college encourages students early to pursue graduate studies with a focus on education to fill the need for instructors. She said most graduates work whether they are in graduate school or not, but less than 5 percent of those students pursue graduate studies.

Tilley said the college does not have to do much recruiting because nursing has grown more attractive.

The Johnson & Johnson Co. uses profiles of male nurses in ads specifically to boost male recruitment, she said, and hospitals have marketed nursing as a respectable job with good pay, flexible hours and plenty of options. Many are interested, but according to the November 2006 report, U.S. nursing schools turned away 41,683 applicants in 2005 because of limited faculty, space and budget. Tilley said TCU has to turn away about 40 transfer students each semester because the college already reached its limit of 60 students per class.

Both Tilley and Burns said they want to provide more hands-on learning, but limited faculty and space make it difficult. Tilley said the college is outgrowing its space and sending some faculty to offices in the basement of the Tucker Technology Center.

According to the November 2006 report, Texas will be short 71,000 full-time nurses in 2020.

There have been shortages in the past, Tilley said, but this one is different because it is worldwide and “is not going to go away in our lifetime probably.