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To Solve the Healthcare Staff Challenge, We Need More Educators

America has been facing a shortage of healthcare professionals for some time now. The problem will likely become exacerbated in years to come, as it is expected that nearly 33 percent of working nurses in the country are expected to retire in years to come. At the same time, the nation’s population is aging quickly and has far more health problems than the system can currently handle.

Part of the reason this issue hasn't been solved is not due to lack of interest from students. The opposite is true. Nursing schools are actually rejecting thousands of applicants each year despite the shortage.

"There's tremendous demand from hospitals and clinics to hire more nurses," Robert Rosseter, a spokesman for the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, told CNN Money. "There's tremendous demand from students who want to enter nursing programs, but schools are tapped out."

This is about to become a huge problem. There are currently 3 million nurses working in the United States. By 2022, to fill current healthcare gaps, U.S. colleges will have to produce 1 million more graduates.

In 2017 alone, nursing programs across the country had to turn away over 56,000 students, each of which who were extremely qualified and met admissions requirements.

"Some of these applicants graduated high school top of their class with a 3.5 GPA or higher," Rosseter wrote. "But the competition to get into a nursing school right now is so intense."

Some of these applicants have already been working in the healthcare field for years and have been rejected multiple times.

CNN Money profiled Erica Kay, a 35-year-old certified surgical technician and certified medical assistant, who has taken two admissions tests and applied to three different schools without success.

"One school responded in a letter they had 343 applications and only accepted 60 students," Kay said. "Another school had 60 slots for 262 applications ... It shocks and upsets me that there are so many hurdles to get into nursing school when we have a nursing shortage."

Nursing has become a popular profession, due in part to the potential for growth throughout your career. It also offers graduates an entry-level living wage with which you can support yourself and your family. In most states, where the shortage is less severe and mandatory overtime is not required, schedules are flexible.

But colleges haven't been able to keep up with the demand, mostly because they struggle to hire nursing instructors who are qualified to teach. Nationally there is a shortage of nearly 1,565 nursing professors. In order to accept more students, colleges and universities are trying to recruit nurses who have an interest in teaching post graduation.

It can be difficult to recruit these students, however. On average, working nurses tend to make more than nurse educators do (though this is all dependent on location and tenure).

Until the problem is addressed at its core, universities are coming up with creative ways to increase the number of students they are able to accept into their programs.

Many schools have expanded programs to new campuses. Others, like Arizona State University have partnered with large hospitals like the Mayo clinic who help to train and network with their nursing students.

In order to solve these issues before the problem becomes more dire, universities and hospitals are going to have to think out of the box to come up with solutions.

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