August, the month when nursing students go back to school to start their fall semester and faculty worry about having enough resources to meet the needs of their students. The nursing shortage has placed an enormous burden on academia and that burden worsened with the impact of COVID. Today there is real concern the profession will not graduate enough new nurses to fill the gaps of baby-boomer nurses retiring or younger nurses leaving the bedside to work in other areas. In academia, we are witnessing a similar situation, baby-boomer faculty are retiring and there are not enough faculty to replace the gaps. Resources are stretched thin and finding clinical sites for undergraduate and graduate nursing students is challenging.
Someone asked me recently should they be worried about what is happening in academia and the answer is yes; we should all be worried, because the day will come when we need a nurse to care for us and there won’t be one.
It’s time practicing nurses work with academia...
Think about being a preceptor for nursing students. Don’t underestimate the impact you have by precepting our next generation of nurses. Yes, it is additional work but, the return on investment will be paid back in dividends. You can provide knowledge and expertise, facilitate clinical judgement, and teach students how to develop trusting relationships with those we care for.
Think about furthering your education by becoming faculty. Further education requires an investment in your time as well as a financially. Look for scholarships to help cover the cost of the higher degree and leverage tuition reimbursement from your practice location. If being full-time faculty is not something you desire, consider becoming adjunct faculty. Being an experienced nurse does not equate to being a successful nurse educator; one needs to be taught to facilitate learning in an academic setting and many healthcare organizations are now partnering with academia to develop adjunct faculty who teach for academic partner institutions while continuing to practice in the healthcare organization. This type of academic/practice partnership helps fill the needs of both organizations.
Academic centers are constantly looking for places where students can gain clinical experience. We need to remember that care is 24/7 not just 7am to 7pm, Monday through Friday. Offer more opportunities for students to fulfill their clinical requirements by opening alternative shifts and weekends to students. Let’s not forget that nursing students need experiences outside of acute care. Schedule students in clinics, home care, hospice, and health system run community centers.
It’s time to give back to our profession to get back our profession...
I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to not only continue practicing, but I’m also adjunct faculty for two graduate nursing programs. I’m not unique; I’m one of many nurses who feel the need to give back to the profession to get back our profession. Sharing knowledge, experience, and wisdom by facilitating learning, supports the next generation of nurses and advanced practice nurses and helps insure when you need a nurse, someone will be at your side.