RALEIGH (August 25, 2021) – All too often, we take them for granted – until we get sick.
It’s then that we realize how critical North Carolina’s nurses are not only to our health, but to our workforce, our communities and our economy.
If we didn’t before, we’ve come to show nurses appreciation that’s long overdue after seeing the sacrifices they’ve made during the coronavirus pandemic.1
Yet North Carolina faces projected nursing shortages that existed even before the pandemic: Shortages of 10,000 registered nurses – 10% of the RN workforce – and 5,000 licensed practical nurses – 20% of the LPN workforce – by 2033.2
Baby boomers are retiring, and burnout – especially during the pandemic – is a very real phenomenon that’s hastened some nurses’ departures.3
We’ve learned the shortage is not due to a shortage of students or demand – on the contrary, the state’s hospitals and long-term care facilities are clamoring for staff.4
No, it’s due to a shortage of instructors. When nursing graduates make more than their instructors – especially at North Carolina’s community colleges – it’s not hard to figure out.5
Some institutions – like UNC Greensboro – have stepped up with new facilities to meet the state’s demand for more nurses.6 Others – like UNC-Chapel Hill – await approval from the state legislature to expand nurse education.7
And North Carolina’s community colleges play a critical role in supplying nurses for rural health care, especially at assisted-living centers, nursing homes and rural hospitals. In particular, Southeastern and Robeson community colleges – as well as UNC-Pembroke – are doing a great job at it.8
In this final installment of our Nurses: Help Wanted series, Dr. Erin Fraher, who studies the healthcare workforce at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Cecil G. Sheps Center, notes in the accompanying video that through migration, North Carolina imports as many nurses every year as it produces from its education systems.
But if other states start competing for nurses, North Carolina will need to produce more nurses on its own, Fraher says.
That’s a good investment, she says, especially when compared with doctors, dentists and pharmacists the state trains. North Carolina retains more than 90% of the nurses who graduate from its programs.
“That’s a large percentage,” she says. “That’s good news, because that means if the legislature invests in nursing programs in the state, the ROI – the return on investment for those funds in terms of having people practice in North Carolina – is high.”
Glossary of Nursing Terms:
1 https://www.higheredworks.org/2021/07/nursing-heroes-toward-the-fire/; https://www.higheredworks.org/2021/07/nursing-heroes-that-nurse/.
8 https://www.higheredworks.org/2021/08/nurses-for-rural-north-carolina/; https://www.higheredworks.org/2021/08/stith-nurses-for-rural-communities/.