To the Editor:

We appreciated Alex Daniels’s article “Foundations and Big Donors Step In to Tackle the Nation’s Nursing Shortage” (October 27). We, too, have been sounding the alarm about the shortages at every level of the nursing profession.

As the article highlighted, the shortages have many causes. Early retirement and burnout stand out for their visibility and immediate impact. What’s more difficult to see are the problems with the education pipeline, including a dire shortage of nursing faculty.

According to a 2021-22 American Association of Colleges of Nursing report, more than 90,000 qualified nursing applicants were turned away from baccalaureate and graduate programs because there weren’t enough instructors.

Another report released by the organization last month found that there were more than 2,100 full-time faculty vacancies for existing positions at the 900-plus nursing schools that responded to a survey. But even filling these vacancies wouldn’t be enough. The report noted that 128 additional faculty positions were needed to meet the demand from potential students.

The reasons for the faculty shortage vary. Advanced practice nurses earn significantly more in a clinical setting than they do as faculty, making teaching a less attractive career option. Further, like the larger nursing work force, nursing faculty are getting older, with many professors opting for retirement.

To respond to these shortages, schools and donors need to consider creative new approaches. For example, the University of Houston College of Nursing, where Kathryn works, is asking philanthropic partners to invest in endowed professorships that will help the school recruit and retain excellent faculty to expand nursing research and increase enrollment. When this strategy was shared with the Andrew Delaney Foundation, where Janet is president, it helped establish one such professorship by leveraging its gift to the school with matching funds from an anonymous donor and state funds from the Texas Research Incentive Program.

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Educating donors about these less visible aspects of the nursing shortage will open opportunities for them to address the challenges facing the profession in ways that are too often under the radar.

Kathryn M. Tart
Humana Endowed Dean’s Chair in Nursing
Founding Dean and Professor
University of Houston College of Nursing

Janet Delaney
President
Andrew Delaney Foundation