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More students enrolling, but not enough instructors: a dilemma while trying to ease a nursing shortage

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Enrollment in undergraduate and graduate nursing programs went up last year. Despite this, state and federal governments are releasing money to schools, in anticipation of a significant shortage within New York State by the end of this decade.

The healthcare industry reports nursing shortages, with worker burnout among the reasons why. Nurses in Buffalo represented by Communication Workers of America, which recently came to terms on a new contract with Catholic Health, cited staffing levels as one of their major points of contention.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 11 million additional nurses are needed to avoid further shortages. The American Journal of Medical Quality estimates there will be a shortage of nearly 39,000 nurses in New York by 2030.

And yet, the American Association of Colleges and Nursing reports enrollment in nursing programs went up by 5.6% in 2020. The problem, however, is there aren’t enough nursing educators to train the students.

“The root of the shortage of nurses, is the shortage of nurse educators,” said Deborah Garrison, interim dean of the Patricia H Garmin School of Nursing at D’Youville College. “There just are not enough nurses who are prepared with a graduate degree. Certainly, at D’Youville, we have bachelors and masters and a doctoral degree. But we just don't have enough people who have gone on to get the graduate education that's required to serve them as an educator.”

Public funding is being released to nursing programs with the goal of changing that. The State University of New York system, for one, has launched a $3 million Nursing Emergency Training Fund.

“The warning signs are flashing that we need to train more nurses now, and the need only grows in the future,” said SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras in a prepared statement. “We must do everything we can to get more people trained as nurses in order to stem the tide to make sure we have access to quality healthcare when we need it—because nurses are the heartbeat of healthcare. Our new SUNY Nursing Emergency Training Fund will create more capacity to graduate more critically-needed nurses by hiring additional nurse educators, expanding clinical positions and training space, and buying state-of-the-art training technology.”

Congressman Brian Higgins, meanwhile, announced Trocaire College will receive $2.1 million over five years to help underrepresented minority students enroll there. The funding comes from the U.S. Department of Education.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.