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Officials Looking for Ways to Ease Shortage of Nursing Teachers


Ways to encourage graduate students to consider teaching, and the use of private money to supplement faculty wages, are among the ideas being discussed to ease a shortage of nursing teachers in the region.

“We need to be able to prepare every interested and qualified student to meet the state’s health care needs,” said Mary Wakefield, director of the University of North Dakota Center for Rural Health. “We’re talking about the health of our communities.”

North Dakota has 10 full-time and 11 part-time faculty openings in baccalaureate-registered nurse programs, according to a draft of the 2006-07 annual report for the state’s board of nursing. Other openings are covered by nurse faculty interns and people who teach but who don’t have graduate degrees.

North Dakota State University accepted 57 of the 118 applicants to its nursing program this year, said Mary Wright, the school’s associate dean of nursing.

“Right now, we tell freshman they need a backup plan,” she said. “There’s no guarantee that even students with high GPAs will get in.”

The North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton had 80 applicants for 20 slots for an associate nursing degree, said Ruth Gladen, the program’s coordinator. All but five students met the program’s requirements.

“We did a great job of recruiting students, but now we have this long waiting list,” she said. “Students are becoming very disillusioned.”

Curt Noyes, a retired health administrator from Innovis Health-Dakota Clinic in Fargo, said administrators worry about a shortage of health care workers but tend to forget the question of where students will get their training.

The average age of nurse faculty members in North Dakota is 51, and more than half plan to retire by 2013, according to a survey conducted by UND’s Center for Rural Health.

Low salary and a lack of qualified applicants make it difficult to fill faculty positions, another survey found. Nurses who pursue graduate degrees, which are necessary to teach, often can make more money in a clinical setting.

Information from: The Forum,

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