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Students with No Teachers

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Even as the nurse shortage deepens across the country, nursing programs are rejecting a growing number of applicants-not because the prospective students aren't qualified, but because there's no one to teach them. According to an American Association of Colleges of Nursing report, U.S. schools turned away more than 41,000 qualified applicants in 2005 due to insufficient faculty numbers, clinical sites and classroom space. Nearly three-quarters of nursing schools in the survey pointed to faculty shortages as a reason for not accepting all qualified applicants into entry-level nursing programs. The scant availability of a nursing education to those who want one has prompted healthcare systems and schools to devise some innovative ways for prospective nurses to receive their training. "The money is not going arrive overnight, so coming up with alternative methods is vital," says Constance Cronin, R.N., chief nursing officer at Henry Ford Health System in Detroit. Nursing classes are being offered in hospital corporate offices, and hospitals are encouraging nursing staff to moonlight as teachers in an effort to try to accommodate the vast number of students looking to become nurses, says Cronin.Henry Ford Health System began offering an intensive 16-month program from its corporate offices to 60 nursing students as a way to accommodate students who were turned away from traditional colleges because of a lack of space. Cronin said interest in the program has been astronomical, and they are graduating the first class in August. The next class, which begins in May, is already full.At Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, administrators are talking with local colleges to create a short course designed to teach qualified nurses how to become adjunct nursing professors. "We're being flexible with our staff to adjust their schedules to work as adjunct clinical faculty and not leave us shorthanded," said Gail Klein, director of clinical staff and physician development at Children's.Beyond immediate solutions, long-term planning must continue to be the industry's focus, says Cheryl Peterson, senior policy fellow at the American Nurses Association. "If we don't maintain the progress we are making today, I fear we will be in huge trouble in 10 years," she says. "We've got to have administrators and legislators who are dedicated to keeping these programs, even in the face of budget cuts.-Kathryn Mackenzie