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College nursing faculty shortage affecting RI hospital staffing

Target 12

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Colleges in Rhode Island and across the country are facing a nursing faculty shortage, meaning there aren’t enough qualified professionals to teach thousands of students seeking to become health care professionals.

Carolynn Masters, dean of Rhode Island College’s nursing program, says she’s been struggling for months to fill vacant positions in her program that has historical graduated a large number of nursing professions that have gone on to work in the Rhode Island health care industry.

“Right here at Rhode Island college, I have about five [full-time] positions that are open and just in the past six months, three of those are related to retirements,” Masters said.

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, tight budgets, retiring baby boomers and increasing job competition from clinical sites are all contributing to the shortage.

Masters said Rhode Island College does not have enough qualified applicants to fill the open positions. In most cases, it can take months or even a year to fill the slots, she added.

“Individuals are retiring, but we don’t have the pipeline coming through so although we see a high number of applicants for our [nursing] program, we do not see a high number of applicants when we have vacancies.,” Masters said.

The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the faculty and nursing shortage in the United States, but the problem was building even before the public health crisis. More than 80,400 qualified students were turned away from nursing programs, and there were also 1,637 vacancies in nursing schools across the country in 2019, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

Lynn Blais, a registered nurse and president of United Nurses and Allied Professionals, said the decline in faculty is contributing to the nursing shortage seen in hospitals across Rhode Island. As Target 12 reported last month, the state’s nursing shortage is contributing to long wait times in emergency departments and a critical staffing shortage that ranks worse than most states across the country.

“If we could create more positions for faculty, you’d be able to create an environment that allows people to get through the system and nurses back into the hospitals,” Blais said. “It would help alleviate the shortage.”

Sarah Guernelli (sguernelli@wpri.com) is an investigative reporter and producer for WPRI 12. Connect with her on Twitter and on Facebook.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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