With a large number of nurses retiring and the growth of the aging population, the need for nurses is increasing. One million additional nurses will be needed by 2022. Unfortunately, there is a shortage of space for nursing students and a lack of hospitals in some parts of the country.

Some areas have such a severe shortage of medical facilities they are dubbed “hospital deserts.” Hospital deserts are rural areas that are more than thirty miles from an ER. Other remote areas are over 200 miles from a hospital, and patients must be flown by plane in order to receive the healthcare they need.

The shortage of nursing students in training is partly caused by the lack of space in nursing programs.  More than 56,000 students were rejected by nursing programs in 2017. This is partly a result of the struggle to find and keep nurse educators who can make about $20,000 more as nurses than they can as professors. Because of this, many colleges have decreased their class sizes for nursing students. Also, many nursing programs have had to lower the number of students they are accepting in order to raise safety standards and reduce overcrowding in clinics.

Some colleges are trying to create ways to bring in additional students, such as adding nursing classes at other campuses and considering partnerships with hospitals who will let their nursing staff teach. Bridge programs are another option to help with the nursing shortage. Two examples of bridge programs include an accelerated associate degree program that allows veterans or paramedics to go directly to the second year of a two-year program, and an accelerated 16-month program which allows veterans that have medical experience to switch to a nursing career.

There are more opportunities to obtain a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree now that hospitals are offering apprenticeships for their nurses. Apprenticeship is a teaching model that allows students to learn in the workplace by putting into practice what they’ve learned. This provides a more affordable and flexible option that integrates education with on-the-job training. Nurses working for a hospital offering the apprenticeship program can apply for their hospital's tuition reimbursement program. They enroll in a BSN program through a university that is partnering with their hospital. Although some still believe nurses should be able to enter the profession with an associate degree, there's a push to increase the number of nurses with bachelor's degrees from 50% to 80% by 2020.

Although we recommend that students earn a BSN, apprenticeship could be an option for transfer students struggling to continue school past the associate degree level, or for those who need to start working sooner. This hospital apprenticeship model could be adapted and used for other medical careers in the future as well.

Students who are interested in nursing should be aware that in some areas, college nursing programs are extremely competitive. To increase their chances, students should maintain a high GPA and consider taking AP classes, volunteering at a hospital, taking a first aid or CPR class, and joining related clubs.

Feel free to contact your CAA Coaches if you have any questions about your career options. We’re here to help!