New report explores impact of nursing faculty struggles on Hawaii’s health workforce shortage

New data from the Hawai‘i’ State Center for Nursing offers a detailed perspective on the impact of nursing faculty shortages on the overall statewide health workforce. The 2020-2021 Hawai‘i’ State Nurse Education Capacity Report analyzed 8 nursing schools based on enrollment capacity, graduation, faculty, and other factors. 

 

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Although the Center produces annual reports, this year’s report focuses on the Pre-License Nursing Education Approval Guidelines from the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. The guidelines include standards for administrative needs, curriculum and clinical experiences, and teaching resources.

“The role of faculty is a challenging one and contributes to schools’ persistent difficulty recruiting full-time faculty and compensating them at a rate that is commensurate with the difficulty of the work,” the report said. “Examining the NCSBN Guidelines suggests that many schools may also be affected by having faculty or faculty candidates who are not well-prepared for their teaching role. These data allow us to consider a new area of faculty development that we have not previously addressed. By focusing on how we can help schools address the need for teaching-focused professional development, we may also forge a new path toward addressing the ongoing challenge of faculty recruitment and retention.”

Of the guidelines’ 23 indicators, 10 relate to nursing faculty and the “considerable influence that faculty have on the quality of nurse education programs,” according to the report. Data indicates Hawai‘i’ nursing schools exceed some of the guidelines, such as the proportion of full-time faculty. On average, schools reported around 61% of nursing faculty were full-time, well above the recommended minimum of 35%. 

Additionally, Hawai‘i’ schools also exceed in having educators with the recommended nursing degree for the program they teach. For example, the guidelines recommend that faculty who teach in LPN programs should have a BSN or higher, while faculty who teach in RN programs should have a graduate degree or higher. According to the report, all faculty have at least a BSN, while 90% have a graduate degree. Over 60% of full-time faculty have a doctorate degree. 

Hawai‘i’ also demonstrated relatively sufficient transition-to-role support for faculty. Two indicators in the guidelines for this area were that schools provide new faculty with a formal orientation and a mentoring relationship. All Hawai‘i’ schools were found to provide mentoring relationships, and all but one school provided formal orientations. 

One guideline where schools fell short was the certification of faculty for simulation programs, or practicing nursing scenarios on patient simulator manikins. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, reliance on simulation programs for nursing education increased. However, the report notes simulations “can be very difficult to write, validate, and implement without proper training.” Only 13% of local schools reported having certified simulation faculty. 

The guidelines also recommend faculty complete continuing education or other professional nursing education development. According to the report, 63% of schools required faculty to engage in continuing education and provided professional development opportunities.

The report also shows the impact of nurse faculty shortages due to the pandemic. With Hawai‘i’’s tourism-reliant economy heavily impacted by the pandemic, the state put in place a hiring freeze. This impacted University of Hawai‘i’ schools, which make up 6 of 8 nursing schools in the state.

“If faculty left their positions, UH System schools were often not given authorization to fill newly vacant positions despite their importance to program operation,” the report said.  “As a result, Hawai‘i’s schools of nursing reported losing 45 (15%) of their funded faculty positions between AY 19-20 and AY 20-21.”

The report noted schools adjusted to workforce challenges in a number of ways. These include reducing cohort sizes, seeking alternative funding, increasing simulation education, and increasing faculty workload.

The full report is available here.