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Wisconsin Faces Looming Nursing Shortage

PHOTO: Gale Barber, assistant dean of the UW-Madison School of Nursing, says the Nurses For Wisconsin Initiative will help quickly develop more critically-needed nursing educators. (Photo provided by UW-Madison)
PHOTO: Gale Barber, assistant dean of the UW-Madison School of Nursing, says the Nurses For Wisconsin Initiative will help quickly develop more critically-needed nursing educators. (Photo provided by UW-Madison)
February 27, 2014

MADISON, Wis. - Wisconsin already has a nursing shortage, at a time when more nurses than ever will be needed to attend to an aging population. Another part of the problem is a shortage of nursing educators. Half to three-quarters of qualified students who apply to nursing schools at four University of Wisconsin (UW) System schools are denied admission because of insufficient qualified nursing faculty to teach them.

Gale Barber, assistant dean of the UW-Madison School of Nursing, said looming faculty retirements also contribute to the shortage.

"As a school of nursing, that's the statistic that is more worrisome," Barber said, "knowing that the average age of a faculty member is 58, and we need to bring younger clinicians into the nursing education role."

Led by the UW-Eau Claire School of Nursing, the Nurses for Wisconsin Initiative will administer a $3.2 million grant to rapidly develop more nursing educators at UW campuses in Milwaukee, Madison, Eau Claire and Oshkosh. The predicted shortage of nurses in Wisconsin is 20,000 by 2035, at a time when nurses are playing an increasingly important role in health care, Barber said.

"They're very invested in the health of the citizens of Wisconsin. The population is aging. With the Affordable Care Act and the increased role of nursing, we take it very seriously that we're looking after the health care of the citizens of the state of Wisconsin," she said.

The grant will allow the nursing schools to administer fellowships that will pay tuition, fees and stipends for students pursuing either a Ph.D or Doctor of Nursing Practice degree, in exchange for a commitment to teach at a UW System nursing school, she added.

According to Barber, the grant will greatly speed up the process of developing nursing educators, because most nurses' academic careers are interrupted. They get a bachelor's degree, then work several years, then go back for more education.

"What we're trying to do is encourage baccalaureate-prepared nurses to consider the nurse educator role, give them funding to go to school full-time because it will make the degree program much faster, and then get a guarantee from them that they will work at a UW System school for three years after they complete their doctoral degree," she explained.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI