There’s something about humans that, no matter our endeavor, we’re ultimately reaching for a panacea–a cure-all for cancer, the fusion reactor, a theory of everything–but almost always the most tenable approach ends up being piecemeal. Some cancers present pathologies that are more treatable than others. Alternative energy requires a cornucopia of sources. And physics, for now, is best separated into its various disciplines.

When it comes to solving our nation’s nursing shortage, the problem doesn’t solely exist in the professional sphere. And, in the educational sphere, the problem isn’t restricted to nursing students. The current nursing shortage is compounded by a faculty shortage, which only perpetuates the declining student and educator populations in the nursing world.

To work through this can of worms will require a multi-tiered approach, one that embraces emerging technologies that will allow medical education to cut operating costs while also serving a higher student-to-educator ratio.

Faculty Shortage = Inability To Expand Nursing Programs

According to the National League for Nursing’s (NLN) “Nurse Faculty Shortage Fact Sheet,” faculty shortages exist in both pre-licensure nursing programs. In light of its own 2012-2013 study, the NLN asserts that, across many pre-licensure programs, a significant portion of qualified applicants are being rejected:

(Percentage of qualified applicants rejected per program across the U.S.)

RN programs – 28%

Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) – 45%

Baccalaureate of Science in Nursing (BSN) – 36%

And varying percentages of three of those four programs cited “lack of faculty” as the primary impediment to expansion:

ADN – 28%

BSN – 38%

Practical Nursing (PN) – 17%

Three Major Components of Faculty Shortage


The NLN reports that, as of its 2009 Faculty Census, 57% of part-time educators and over 75% of full-time educators are over 45 years old. That means that, in 2017, a majority of that statistic is awfully close to retirement age.


According to the same Census, the “salaries of nurse educators remained notably below those earned by similarly ranked faculty across higher education,” a statistic that held true at every rank of nursing educator. Nursing professors showed the worst salary disparity at 45% less than equivalent non-nursing professors.


The NLN also asserts that many full-time nurse educators

“indicated that they had administrative duties as well as teaching responsibilities, resulting in a 56-hour average work week. Moreover, in addition to their work inside their [Primary Academic Institution (PAI)], more than 62 percent of these nurse faculty picked up work outside their PAI, averaging an additional day each week (7-10 hours).”

45% of these educators report dissatisfaction with their current workload.

Virtual Reality as Part of the Solution

Because the nursing faculty shortage exacerbates itself, any set of solutions must find a way to cut costs at a medical education institution while also serving an increasing student-to-educator ratio. One of the best places to start is virtual reality simulation.

Recently, a research team at Boise State University received a national award for its virtual reality clinical training simulator:

“The haptic system is a new, wearable technology that enables a student to see and interact with (touch, hold or grip) objects in the virtual environment, allowing for complex simulations (like catheter insertion) with significant cost savings compared to more standard training on a simulation medical mannequin” (Focus).

This system allows students to simulate sterilization for clinical environments all the way to sophisticated medical procedures.

Not only does this technology allow an individual student to practice a procedure much more frequently within a given time frame than when the procedure is performed on a mannequin, it also costs around $5,000 compared to mannequins costing $15,000 – $64,000 a piece.

Considering how similar technology could eliminate excessive supply costs throughout all of medical education, and the fact that digital simulators could feasibly increase class sizes exponentially, part of the answer to curbing the nursing faculty shortage begins by embracing educational innovation as it becomes available.

Virtual reality alone, of course, won’t solve the shortage. VR will have to be integrated into mainstream healthcare education along with other tech like ePortfolios and Competency Based Education platforms in order to help build the comprehensive digital classroom of the 21st century.

Always Ahead of the Innovation Curve


With medtech as one of our core focuses here at tekMountain, we strive to forge the connections and collaborations that will optimize healthcare education in the US and throughout the world. Recently, Medtronic, a global leader in medical technology, services, and solutions, visited New Hanover Regional Medical Center, located here in Wilmington, to conduct a cardiovascular symposium that included VR demos for medical training techniques. With such medtech innovation on the horizon, tekMountain remains incredibly optimistic, despite the current state of flux in our healthcare system, that the best iteration of American healthcare is right around the corner.

Contact tekMountain today to learn more about how your healthcare institution can benefit from the latest and greatest medtech innovations.


This blog was produced by the tekMountain Team of Sean AhlumAmanda SipesBill DiNome and Beth Roddy with lead writer Zach Cioffi.

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