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    Nursing Schools Suffer Educator Shortage

    Across the nation nurse educators are in short supply.

    With registered nurses making at least 12 percent more than nurse educators who have been working for 15 or more years, many of them are reluctant to become nurse educators.

    “We need to make educating nurses a high priority and devote more funding to this, or we will be in even more trouble down the road,” said Dr. Paul Clark, professor and head of the Department of Labor Studies and Employment Relations at Penn State University.

    However, “down the road” may be sooner than anticipated.

    Within the next decade the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that the shortage would increase by 41 percent to a 1.2 million deficit by 2020.

    “It’s a kind of domino effect for all nurses,” Dr. Clark said. “We have a shortage, that causes understaffing in hospitals and creates tremendous stress on nurses. They burn out and quit, exacerbating the shortage, leading to worse conditions.”

    A 36 percent increase of faculty vacancy rates from 2002 represents this nationwide predicament. “Without working part-time in nursing or conducting extra workshops I make less than my graduating students,” Darlene Clark, a nursing professor at Penn State University for the 15 years, said. This results in a decrease in faculty rates that has left universities struggling to expand nursing school enrollment.

    Stony Brook represents many universities within New York State and across the country that are struggling. At SBU, nursing students make up less than one percent of the undergraduate population.

    “Our school’s not big enough, we don’t have more faculty because they don’t get paid enough,” Melissa Radivonyk, a senior nursing student here at SBU, said.

    This year there were more than 350 qualified applicants and less than 52 spaces to fill. “I see President Kenny renovating the campus, and yes, it’s beautiful, but she needs to allocate sources better. “We have outdated equipment that we don’t even use anymore,” Radivonyk said.

    Stony Brook is one of SUNY’s top research schools and has been ranked in the top two percent of all universities worldwide by the London Times Higher Education Supplement. SUNY Binghamton, also a research school, has a smaller enrollment — 36 percent less — but its Decker School of Nursing enrolls 89 percent more students than Stony Brook’s School of Nursing.

    Binghamton’s Local Lourdes hospital received Magnet Recognition in 2007, an award that recognizes excellence in nursing.

    Since 2002, 16 New York hospitals have received this award. In early 2004 Stony Brook applied for the award, but did not meet the criteria.

    As eligible nursing students are being denied an education, the nursing shortage continues to grow. The Center for Health Work Force Studies estimated that New York nursing schools turned away 2,200 qualified applicants in 2006. The primary reason was a lack of classroom space and funding for faculty.

    Nurses make up the largest health care occupation in the United States, nearly three times the number of physicians and surgeons, a report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics said.

    Dr. Lenore Lamanna has been a nurse for more than two decades and a professor at Stony Brook for the past 12 years. “I’d rather be happy doing what I’m doing than be unhappy counting pennies,” she said in regard to the discrepancy between educating and nursing.

    There have been efforts to decrease this impending shortage. In 2002, President George W. Bush signed the Nurse Reinvestment Act into law. In 2004, 66 percent of the $141.9 million was directly invested into education.

    “There have been incentives over the past five years for nurses to become nurse educators but that money is drying up,” Darlene Clark said. The Human Resource and Service Administration, which provides the Nurse Education Loan Repayment Program, was forced to turn away 82 percent of its applicants due to the lack of funding.

    “You need a balance… you cannot over emphasize the finances,” said Kathleen Bratby, assistant dean of nursing students. “If [nurses] make the money at the bedside, why would [they] move to faculty?”

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