Nurses are the heart of an increasingly complex health care system – the first person to prepare a patient for surgery and the last to check them out of the hospital.
And in Utah, we face a uniquely challenging health care equation. Our elderly population is the fastest-growing in the country. At the same time, we have the youngest population and the lowest death rate. That formula adds up to even greater demand for well-educated nurses. The College of Nursing is solving this challenge through three giving initiatives:
Healing the Nursing Faculty Shortage
By some measures, the country’s nursing shortage will reach 1 million by 2020. At the same time, nursing colleges are turning students away because they do not have enough faculty to teach them. Nationally, about 70,000 qualified nursing school applicants were rejected by American colleges last year. At the University of Utah, more than 200 students could not be accepted due to a shortage of teachers.
The combination of a growing aging population, instructors and professors reaching retirement age, and higher salaries at hospitals and clinics have combined to build a looming education gap that threatens quality health care itself.
There are 6 million nurses in the country and 600,000 doctors. Nurses often are the first person a patient sees when they wake up from surgery and the last person they talk to before leaving the hospital. If the nursing shortage builds, as expected, patients can expect to wait longer for care and treatment, and that care and treatment may be compromised.
It may not seem like an immediate need, but eventually all of us and our loved ones will need the care of a nurse. The New York-based Jonas Center for Nursing Excellence estimated that each nurse educator position left vacant could affect the care of 3.6 million patients each year. Not only will our access to beds and nurses be limited, but also competing for new nurses will create an increase in healthcare costs. When supply is low and demand is high, healthcare costs will rise.
Increasing funding for faculty salaries not only improves the quality and the reputation of our nursing program, and University’s reputation on the whole, but also increases the services they can provide.
An investment in the nursing faculty is an investment in human capital. While human capital is not as easily quantifiable as cash flow or purchasing supplies, the skills and services our nursing faculty provide are invaluable assets to Utah’s healthcare system and patients.
In essence, the nursing faculty return on investment comes from the health care benefits, services and outcomes supported by the nurses that our faculty educate.