The nationwide nursing shortage means JSU's College
of Nursing faces new challenges in producing graduates and filling faculty
positions. Dr. Martha Lavender, left, dean of the JSU College of Nursing,
demonstrates a procedure for nursing students.
By Kelly Milam
JSU News Bureau
October 24, 2003 -- A nursing shortage, which started being felt after the mid-1990s in California, has migrated eastward, causing Alabama to
experience a serious nursing shortage, also. Jacksonville State University's
Dr. Martha Lavender, dean of the College of Nursing, says the shortage has an impact on JSU, as nursing majors find themselves
Last year, some of the state's hospitals had many unfilled nursing positions.
When asked about the reason for the nursing shortage, Dr. Lavender replied, "One is that there has truly been a demographic shift in
the United States. If you look at the baby boomer population, you'll find that that group is much larger than the Generation X and Generation Y groups
that are coming up behind them; therefore, we actually have more people that
are over forty in the nursing profession than we do that are under
"Also, nursing is predominately a female profession;
about ninety-four to ninety-five percent of registered nurses are female.
For a young woman today, there are so many educational opportunities. Women
choose from medicine, to being an attorney, to being an engineer. They
choose fields that typically, in the past, have not been female career
paths, but now they are. That has really made a
"The third factor that has made a difference is
salary. The starting salaries for registered nurses are not what they tend
to be in other fields. Starting salaries for registered nurses in northeast
Alabama range from $26,000 to $32,000 a year."
The College of
Nursing and Health Sciences admits students based on the school's faculty
and clinical resources.
Lavender said, "I negotiate with all of the area nursing schools for
clinical placement of students. Space is highly competitive. Since nursing
is an applied science, quality clinical learning experiences are crucial to
a successful transition into practice. The availability of clinical space
and the ability to recruit qualified faculty is a challenge. From the
beginning of enrollment into the upper division of nursing, our students go
to clinical in their courses. They do a wonderful job."
Due to the
nursing shortage, JSU's College of Nursing and Health Sciences has received
more applicants than usual. In fact, its admission rate rose 21 percent this
Media have drawn attention to the fact that there is a need
for additional people to enter the nursing workforce. Another reason for the
increase in the number of applicants is that the Gallup poll that was
released in February 2003 shows that nursing is ranked number one as the
most trusted profession.
The nursing phenomenon is predicted to be
present until the year 2030, which means that nursing is an excellent career
option for everyone.
"I anticipate that our graduates will continue to be heavily recruited.
Only about 10.4 percent of all nurses in America have a master's or doctoral
degree. About forty-three percent of all nurses have a baccalaureate or
higher degree, which puts them in a tremendously competitive job market,"
When asked if there is a specific type of nursing
that is in higher demand, she replied, "Many people believe that nurses
specialize at the baccalaureate level. They don't; a graduate of our BSN
program is prepared to work in any specialty area as an entry-level
registered nurse. What happens is that they enter a baccalaureate program,
which is an entry-level program, and they come out as a registered nurse
generalist. They have been exposed to all of the specialties. Specialization
occurs at the master's level. JSU has faculty that represent all of the
Lavender added, "An important factor that
the public needs to be aware of is that the shortage of nursing faculty is
even more severe than the workforce shortage. That is a factor for
consideration as we address the workforce problem. A master's degree is the
minimum degree required for teaching in a university. The pool of potential
faculty is tremendously small at the local and national levels. In fact, the
HRSA (Health Resources Services Administration) has recently released a call
for a program that provides a fast-track option for nurses to receive
advanced degrees so that they can teach. The faculty shortage is very
"The average age of a full-time professor in a
university in this country is fifty-five. The average age of a faculty
member any rank is fifty-one. We have to replace faculty (as they retire).
Many folks in public hear about the nursing shortage and think, 'we need to
produce more nurses,' but if you don't have appropriately qualified faculty,
you can't increase your enrollment in your programs. You hear about when
people go into a health care facility and they ring the call button and
nobody comes; but as we're trying to address that problem, we do it through
education, and we do have an issue with that."
shortage is real, dynamic, and dangerous. Recent studies have validated the
positive impact of baccalaureate prepared nurses in the health care setting.
Lavender said, "At JSU, we will continue to strive for high quality,
well-prepared nursing graduates to serve as the next generation of
caregivers and nursing leaders."
© Copyright 2002: Jacksonville State University