Colleges and universities in the US rejected over 80,000 qualified applicants for degrees in nursing at the height of the pandemic between 2019-20, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.
With doctors and nurses struggling to make it through the pandemic, colleges are still not enrolling enough nursing students to keep up with the skyrocketing demand for healthcare workers during the crisis.
Long Beach City College alone received 1,200 applications for its nursing associate’s program but accepted only 32 of them.
Worse still, California State University, East Bay will not enroll nursing students until at least fall 2021.
‘Will People Still Enroll in Nursing Programs?’
Peter Buerhaus, a Montana State University professor who studies the nursing workforce, said there is concern about the increasing gap between the supply and demand for nurses. “What worries people, if COVID continues on and takes its toll, is will people still enroll in nursing programs?” he asked.
About 1 in 5 of the Illinois’ hospitals is reporting a “critical” staff shortage each day. Nurses are burned out from this pandemic and are catching the virus. They need our support and for all of us to work to reduce the spread of the disease.https://t.co/FZmr2Hvv16
— Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi (@CongressmanRaja) December 21, 2020
Besides insufficient enrollment of nursing students, some colleges are also facing a dearth of qualified instructors. At community colleges, instructors’ salaries are so low compared to what practicing nurses can earn that faculty positions sometimes remain vacant for years.
Rio Hondo College, a community college in California, saw an increase in the number of nursing school applicants this year but had to limit new admissions due to a lack of teachers.
Responding to the Crisis
Responding to the country-wide shortage of nursing assistants, some schools have taken steps to close the gap.
Front Range Community College (FRCC) in Colorado is awarding its first four-year bachelor’s degrees in nursing in the college’s 52-year history. “FRCC’s new program is helping to meet a growing need for skilled health-care providers by building on our 50-year history of outstanding nursing education,” President Andy Dorsey said in a statement.
The College of Alameda in California is set to offer a new, no-cost Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) training program starting January 25 next year.
Despite these efforts, the shortage of nurses in the US is expected to deepen as the baby boom generation, accounting for over 20 percent of America’s population, ages and the need for health care grows.