Oregon Lacks Nursing Educators


Photo: Getty Images

Photo: Getty Images

The Oregon Longitudinal Data Collaborative (OLDC) is pleased to announce a newly published study: “Postsecondary Healthcare Education Shortage in Oregon,” a statewide analysis of the nursing education shortage that is impacting every region of Oregon. According to the study, more than 6,800 qualified nursing student applications were submitted to Oregon postsecondary institutions in 2020, yet only 23 percent were accepted. At the same time, Oregon ranks 47th in graduates per capita from registered nursing programs. This study examines the causes of the postsecondary education bottleneck which is limiting institutions of higher education from providing enough capacity to meet student and job market demand for registered nurses and makes recommendations for policymakers to address these issues. Read the full analysis here or the Summary of Findings and Recommendations here.

Barbara Holtry, interim executive director of the Oregon State Board of Nursing says, “This report confirms what has been known in nursing circles for decades; that there is a nursing faculty shortage in Oregon, that nurses avoid teaching because they can earn more in other nursing roles, and that student cohorts could be larger if only there were more faculty to support them.”

The researchers found that there are more than enough qualified applicants to Oregon's nursing education programs to meet job demand in the state. However, in a survey of Oregon’s healthcare education programs, the researchers found that significant barriers have prevented registered nursing programs from expanding to accept more qualified students, including: difficulty hiring and retaining faculty, limited clinical placement opportunities, and fiscal challenges including costs to update and expand their facilities. Further investigation revealed that Oregon has one of the largest salary gaps nationally between nursing faculty and registered nurses. Analysis showed that states like Oregon with a higher nursing faculty salary gap graduate fewer students per capita. The survey also found that 95 percent of nursing programs were denied one or more attempts to establish a clinical placement between 2016-2020. 

Based on the findings in the study, the OLDC developed recommendations which are detailed in the summary here and include: establishing a state workgroup to address nurse faculty salary, establishing a statewide centralized clinical placement system, addressing needs for program expansion including facility and equipment needs and expanded access to bachelor programs, and conducting additional research to identify additional support for students.

“This study is a great example of the value that comes from sharing data with the Oregon Longitudinal Data Collaborative and other partner agencies. It sheds light on the complex challenges contributing to the shortage of health care workers and points to some possible policy solutions,” said Acting Oregon Employment Department Director David Gerstenfeld. “These collaborations help Oregon businesses and workforces compete, thrive, and flourish in our ever-changing labor market. Together, we can serve Oregonians better than we ever could on our own.”

This is the first comprehensive report of the OLDC, a program governed by multiple agencies, that looks at the intersections of K-12, postsecondary education, workforce training, and employment to examine how these sectors influence and impact each other. The OLDC, located in the Higher Education Coordinating Commission, is working to tackle topics like nursing education that require integrated data and analysis from multiple sectors: K-12 education, postsecondary education, licensing, workforce, and more.

Ben Cannon, executive director of HECC says, “This study provides an in-depth analysis of a critical and complicated issue we face, and concrete actions for Oregon policy makers and institutions to consider to help more Oregon students enter rewarding, well-paying careers, and to help Oregon communities that are in such need of quality healthcare workers. I’m pleased that we can benefit from the rigorous research of the OLDC and all the partners they have worked with.”  

The study was created over the course of the last year through analysis of data from the OLDC Statewide Longitudinal Data System with additional data provided by Oregon State Board of Nursing, Oregon Employment Department, Oregon Health Authority, and surveys to the Oregon healthcare education programs. The OLDC thanks the many college and university deans and their program staff, the Oregon State Board of Nursing, HECC program staff, OHA, and the research directors from the HECC, OED, ODE for their involvement during the research process. 

Source: Oregon Longitudinal Data Collaborative

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