May 25, 2007

Campaign to address nursing shortage extended

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Vanderbilt’s Charles Hong, M.D., Ph.D., left, talks with Richard Lifton, M.D.,Ph.D., who delivered last week’s Discovery Lecture. Hong was a student of Lifton's at Yale University. (photo by Anne Rayner)

Campaign to address nursing shortage extended

The Johnson & Johnson Campaign for Nursing's Future crossed its five-year mark by announcing ongoing support for its program and by expanding its campaign to include nurse faculty recruitment and retention.

In late 2001, with more than 110,000 nurses needed to fill vacant positions nationwide, the United States was in the midst of the worst nursing shortage in its history. Five years later, more than 500,000 men and women have entered the nursing profession.

“This campaign has been a tremendous boost by showcasing nursing as a rewarding profession and showing corporate America how a private-public partnership can make a profound difference throughout our society,” said Peter Buerhaus, Ph.D., R.N., professor of Nursing and director of Vanderbilt's Center for Interdisciplinary Health Workforce Studies, Institute for Medicine and Public Health.

Despite marked increases, the nursing shortage is entering its 10th year and much remains to be done to stave off a long-term health care crisis brought on by aging baby boomers, retiring nurses and a critical shortage of nursing faculty, all of which lead the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration to forecast 1 million nurse staffing vacancies by 2020.

“We are making headway in important areas,” said Buerhaus. “We know more people are choosing nursing as a second career, for instance. Now we have the increased interest, we need to make sure we have faculty in place.”

In 2006, nearly 130,000 qualified applicants to baccalaureate and graduate nursing school programs were turned away, primarily due to an insufficient number of faculty, according to recent data by the National League for Nursing.

“We are admitting record numbers of students into our advanced nurse practice master's program,” said Colleen Conway-Welch, Ph.D., R.N., dean of the School of Nursing. “The nursing faculty shortage is a real issue, and this new campaign will spotlight this important piece of the puzzle.”