South Carolina nursing school administrators say the major roadblocks to training more nurses is a shortage of faculty and facilities.
Peggy Hewlett, dean of the College of Nursing at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, said to meet the demand for nurses that will be brought on by the aging baby boomer population, the state’s programs need to increase the number of nurses who graduate each year by 20 percent.
The aging boomers create a twofold problem: More nurses will be getting to retirement age and the aging population will need more health care services.
The problem is not finding students who want to be nurses, but finding people to teach them and places where they can get the needed hands-on experience.
A nurse with a master’s degree and extensive experience can make up to $100,000 a year in a clinical setting, said Gail Stuart, dean of the College of Nursing at the Medical University of South Carolina. That same person would earn about $30,000 a year less as a nursing instructor.
“It’s going to take some dollars,” Stuart said of increasing the ranks of nursing instructors.
The Critical Needs Nursing Initiative Act passed the state Legislature this year and calls for increased salaries for nursing faculty members and scholarships for students seeking advanced nursing degrees so they can teach among other things.
“Now the challenge is how we fund it fully,” Hewlett said.
Lawmakers provided just $1 million to fund the act although nursing professionals asked for $11 million.
Stuart said MUSC will open a simulation lab this spring, complete with special mannequins on which students can practice basic procedures.
Mary Thornley, president of Trident Technical College, which has the largest training program for nurses in the Lowcountry, says for her school to put out more nurses, it needs a new building in which to train them.
Muriel Horton, Trident’s dean of nursing, said the school admits 276 registered nursing students each year. With a new building it could admit 384. With additional training space, it could also increase the number of full-time faculty members to 40 from 30.
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