|Lack of instructors hampers growth in nursing careers|
Monday, June 15, 2009
Lack of instructors hampers growth in nursing careers: Critics say new enrollment options to meet projected need for nurses don't address faculty shortfall
Marisa Schultz / The Detroit News
Dearborn -- Kim Keech burst into tears when she realized her lifelong dream of becoming a nurse is now within her grasp. After four years, including a stint in the Army, she was off the nursing program waitlist at Henry Ford Community College.
"When you finally get that letter, it's such a sigh of relief," said Keech, 23, a single mom and full-time medical office assistant from Southgate. "You can finally do what you've wanted to do. And (nursing) is the only thing that's going to help me support my child."
Michigan is projected to be 18,000 nurses short by 2015, according to one industry study. Yet nursing programs throughout the state turned away more than 4,000 qualified applicants in 2006 alone because there are not enough slots for them, according to another report. Experts contend that a lack of qualified faculty and clinical opportunities have caused the bottleneck.
Lawmakers in Lansing are expected to consider legislation this year to let community colleges offer bachelor's degrees in nursing. Opponents, however, said the legislation will do nothing to address the heart of the problem -- the shortage of nursing faculty with doctorates -- and could potentially create a greater dearth of qualified instructors.
That's because four-year nursing programs at community colleges would be subject to the same standards for accreditation as universities that require a quarter of full-time faculty to have doctorates.
"We are better equipped," said Michael Boulus, executive director of the Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan, which represents the 15 public universities. "We have the doctorates, qualified faculty, the staff and the facilities."
Meanwhile, community colleges have increased nursing program enrollments, started accelerated programs and expanded night and weekend offerings. Nursing enrollment among Metro Detroit's five community colleges grew from 3,862 in 2004 to 4,753 in 2008 -- or 23 percent.
Students can wait up to two years to earn admission, and until recently, had no problem finding jobs right after graduation.
"This year (employers) are being a bit more selective," said Susan Shunkwiler, a nursing instructor at Henry Ford Community College. "I think they are all eventually still finding jobs. But this year has been a bit of tighter market."
While an associate's degree is sufficient to become a registered nurse, the four-year degree will make the nurses more marketable and promotable, proponents of expanded programs said. Nurses need a certain number of continuing education credits to maintain their license, so instructors at Henry Ford have encouraged their students to further their education beyond the associate's degree.
"There's no reason why they shouldn't have a bachelor's degree," said Joan Green, an HFCC nursing instructor who supports the legislation. "And they should go here because it's close to home, in the community and it's lower in cost."