1. Tyczkowski, Brenda L. DNP, RN, RHIA
  2. Reilly, Janet DNP, APRN, FNP-BC


It is no secret that there is a nursing faculty shortage due to aging faculty, retention issues, and an increased need for more nurses with the DNP degree. This parallels the ongoing nursing shortage, as lack of faculty limits nursing student capacity. Explanation of how DNP-prepared faculty can help fill the nursing faculty shortage and strategies are explored in this article.


Article Content

In 2004, a new terminal nursing doctorate degree was added-the practice-focused DNP degree, designed to complement the research-focused PhD degree. Of concern is the escalating, serious shortage of nursing faculty, particularly those with doctoral preparation, with an estimated 1360 national vacancies (6.9% vacancy rate).1 In 2014, lack of faculty was the main reason for denying acceptance to 15 288 qualified Master's and doctoral nursing program candidates,2 which promulgates the shortage of nurses in practice.


The 2004 American Association of Critical-Care Nurses position statement endorsed the DNP degree as the appropriate degree for entry into practice for advanced practice nurses.3 This transition requires even more DNP-prepared nursing faculty, particularly those with clinical backgrounds. There is also a need for faculty with backgrounds in leadership and other specialty areas. A "wave of retirements" of doctoral-prepared faculty is anticipated to compound this growing demand.1


Despite the need for faculty to teach at the graduate level, Fang and Bednash4 found that only 32% of DNP graduates plan to pursue an academic career. This leads to reliance on PhD-prepared nurses to teach in MSN and DNP programs, who bring a research-focused skill set to the classroom, which differs from the practice-focused DNP skill set. Even with PhDs in the picture, there remains a shortage. How can we increase the number of DNP-prepared nurses entering academia?



One strategy is higher compensation in academia, comparable with clinical settings, as is often done in engineering departments. The average salary of a nurse practitioner in 2014 was $91 310, in contrast with that of an assistant professor, which was $73 633.1 Nurse leader salaries ranged from $90 000 to $149 999.5 It is disheartening to think about providing education to students whose salaries are higher than your own. Higher salaries in academia can encourage an increase in the number of DNP-prepared faculty with recent clinical nursing or leadership and management experiences, which mentor and prepare DNP students to successfully take on these roles.


Another option is creating dual positions for DNP-prepared nurse leaders, with leadership positions in practice and adjunct or mentor roles in academic settings. The DNP-prepared nurse leader faculty would be able to maintain current clinical and leadership skills, while earning what is typically a higher salary than in academia alone. Students receive knowledge of latest clinical, leadership, or other specialty practices. This may be particularly attractive to academic programs without a university health system affiliation.


Some DNP-prepared nurse leaders may feel unprepared to teach. Being a good leader does not necessarily equate to being a good teacher. Teaching is not included as a competency in the DNP Essentials.6 Perhaps, there should be an additional DNP Essential related to teaching competency. This would allow DNP-prepared nurses to feel more comfortable with teaching strategies and skills, encouraging them to select teaching as an area of focus.


Nurse leaders new to teaching may benefit from mentorship into their teaching roles. Mentoring new DNP-prepared nurse leader faculty may support role satisfaction, success, and retention in academia. Streamlining and facilitating the appointment, promotion, and tenure processes in academia promote successful nursing academic career paths for DNP-prepared faculty.7


Clinical innovation, quality improvement, and original research that generate new nursing knowledge are essential to nursing education, and a blend of PhD- and DNP-prepared faculty can facilitate this mix. Boyer's8 Model of Scholarship, when applied to nursing, supports the need for the full array of rigorous and creative inquiry, from discovery of new nursing information through the application in evidence-based nursing practice. There is room for both PhD- and DNP-prepared nurses in academia, although sometimes role tension between the 2 groups can exist. Collaborative endeavors such as team research, writing groups, shared teaching, and shared governance participation build an academic culture that values a community of scholars and educators.9



With a growing and significant shortage of faculty, we need to consider what DNP-prepared nurse leaders offer to academia. To encourage more DNP-prepared nurse leaders to select a career in academia, we need to raise salaries, provide continued practice opportunities, add a teaching competency to their educational preparation, and enhance retention through mentoring and sustained collaborative efforts.




1. AACN. Nursing faculty shortage. Accessed February 28, 2015. [Context Link]


2. AACN. New AACN data confirm enrollment surge in schools of nursing. Accessed February 28, 2017. [Context Link]


3. Auerbach DI, Martsolf GR, Pearson ML, et al. The DNP by 2015: a study of the institutional, political and professional issues that facilitate or impede establishing a post-baccalaureate Doctor of Nursing Practice program. Rand Health Q. 2015;5(1):3. [Context Link]


4. Fang D, Bednash GD. Identifying barriers and facilitators to future nurse faculty careers for DNP students. J Prof Nurs. 2017;33(1):56-67. [Context Link]


5. Kittner A, Thrall TH. AONE 2016 salary survey: wide ranging compensation, strong satisfaction. Nurse Leader. 2016;14(5):311-315. [Context Link]


6. AACN. The essentials of doctoral education for advanced practice. Accessed February 28, 2017. [Context Link]


7. Smith SB, Hollerbach A, Donato AS, Edlund BJ, Atz T, Kelechi TJ. Streamlining appointment, promotion, and tenure procedures to promote early-career faculty success. J Prof Nurs. 2016;32(5):334-341. [Context Link]


8. Boyer E. Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities for the Professoriate. Princeton, NJ: The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching; 1990. [Context Link]


9. Staffileno BA, Carlson E, Murphy MP. Overcoming tension: building effective DNP-PhD faculty teams. J Prof Nurs. 2016;33(5):342-348. [Context Link]