National Nurses Week is celebrated annually from May 6 through May 12. We want to recognize these courageous and caring professionals and celebrate our students who are choosing this path to protect patient welfare and promote a healthier Texas. We need more people to follow their lead.
We face a healthy trend on the one hand. More employers are requiring nurses to have bachelor’s degrees, ensuring an even more knowledgeable and skilled workforce trained with the latest technologies and discoveries in medicine. A 2011 mandate from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) called for at least 80 percent of the nursing workforce to hold a degree by 2020, up about 50 percent from two years ago. And, more nurses are working than they were two years ago, as those who had retired rejoined the workforce temporarily to ride out the rising costs of a recession. Reality tells us they will retire again as the economy improves. And that’s where the diagnosis for the future of Texas healthcare gets critical.
According to the Texas Center for Nursing Workforce Studies, demand for full-time nurses in Texas exceeds supply by 22,000. The average age of a working RN in Texas is 46, and the average age of a nurse educator is 54. Within the next ten years, we stand to lose 40 percent of our working nurses. The gap could expand to a more than 70,000 nurse shortage by 2020.
"Nurses will play a more vital role in healthcare than ever before in the coming years and ensuring they have access to education to develop new skills and competencies is critical," says Jan Jones-Schenk, Chief Nursing Officer, National Director of Nursing with Western Governors University. "More nursing faculty will be required and new educational models will be essential. WGU has a model that works toward supporting all these needs as we prepare for dramatic healthcare transformation."
While traditional models are finding themselves closing doors to at-capacity classrooms, the competency-based model employed by WGU Texas opens those doors for a healthier tomorrow. As Team Texas, a coalition of agencies and organizations addressing the Texas nursing shortage attest: Texas must strive for synergies, partnerships, disruptions, and innovations” to reach a sufficient number of graduates. We must reach out to the working RNs and encourage them to go further in nursing by attaining their bachelor’s degree, and for those with the BSN to earn a master’s to fill the void we face in nursing leadership and administration. To provide an incentive this Nurses Week, WGU Texas is offering five scholarships, each valued up to $500, to motivated RNs and other licensed nurses who are ready to earn a degree. The deadline to apply for this scholarship is June 8, 2012.
We need more students like MSN student Juanita who demonstrate the values nurses champion: altruism, autonomy, human dignity, integrity and social justice; to go further in nursing. Won’t you join them? Our healthy future depends on it.