CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Nursing programs across North Carolina are dealing with a faculty shortage, and it’s limiting student capacity when the need for skilled nurses is growing.
What You Need To Know
An instructor shortage is forcing leaders at UNC-Charlotte School of Nursing to make difficult decisions about qualified applicants
Director Dr. Dena Evans has six open positions, compared to zero last year
Evans says it’s a longstanding issue exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic
UNC-Charlotte School of Nursing Director Dr. Dena Evans says there’s an increase in students applying to get into its undergraduate nursing program. But a lack of instructors and competition for clinical space in Charlotte is forcing officials to make difficult decisions about qualified applicants.
“It’s disheartening when a student doesn’t get into the program,” Evans said. “But you can only do what you’re legally able to do.”
Evans says the school is approved by the North Carolina Board of Nursing to teach 240 students at a time. But Evans admits the school is having trouble admitting that many students.
“We admit 56 a semester, so 112 a year,” Evans said. “So, we have 224 [students] … we’re almost there, but not quite.”
Evans says it’s a longstanding issue exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Some people have decided that they’re going to go ahead and retire. Other people are moving into areas where they don’t have roles where they have to take students to clinical,” Evans said. “And then you have the added disadvantage that people who are registered nurses can make more money in the clinical setting than they can in academics.”
Evans says a wave of retirements is hitting her department during the pandemic.
“Last year I had zero open positions, now I have six,” she said. “It’s very stressful because you never know from day to day who’s going to come in and say, ‘well, I’ve decided that I’m going to retire.’”
Evans says the problem is widespread across the Tar Heel state at a time when the nursing workforce is aging, and training the next generation is critical.
“When [instructors] retire who’s going to take their place? Who’s going to mentor the new people?” Evans said. “It really is a big issue, not just for us, but for all nursing programs and nursing in general.”