Programs could see shortage in qualified nursing professors - WSMV News 4

Programs could see shortage in qualified nursing professors

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We've heard for years now about the shortage of nurses in Tennessee and all over the country, but now there may be a shortage of professors to teach them.

John Malesh is a mid-level nurse manager who hopes to move up to a senior-level administrator, so he enrolled in to the Tennessee Board of Regents' online masters of nursing program.

"I've been in the medical field for more than 25 years," Malesh said. "It's an excellent program for working professionals."

Malesh said things were going well until this semester when he preregistered for two nursing courses, but was told eight days before the start of classes he could not take them.

"My other two options of courses to take were showing as canceled. So I have no option of selecting an alternate course," he said.

TBR officials say the online masters of nursing program has grown from about 600 students to 1,200 in three years, and more courses were added this year, but a shortage of professors has forced them to cap enrollment in 21 classes and give preference to current students over new students.

"These type of courses require very highly qualified, highly skilled faculty members - doctoral level faculty members," said TBR Communications Director Monica Greppin-Watts.

It turns out this is not a problem unique to Tennessee.

"What we're seeing in this program is similar to what institutions are facing across the state and nation," Greppin-Watts said.

Lipscomb University, a private institution in Nashville not affiliated with TBR, recently expanded its nursing program because of the demand for more nurses.

For now, Lipscomb is only offering a B.S. in nursing, but nursing school officials are considering adding a masters and Ph.D. program in the future, saying they are preparing the current faculty to help with the shortage.

"Right now, we have 55 percent of our faculty that are already doctorally prepared or working on their doctorate," said Lipscomb Dean of Nursing Dr. Beth Youngblood.

Malesh said he's on a timetable to get his masters in order to receive a $20,000 tuition reimbursement from his employer. But since he's not currently enrolled in school, he's worried about his student loans.

"We're going to have to get deferments to these loans. We've gotten no status as to when the classes will be available again," he said.

TBR officials say there are 115 faculty members at six state public universities teaching these online masters level nursing courses: Tennessee State University, Middle Tennessee State University, East Tennessee State University, University of Memphis, Austin Peay State University and Tennessee Technological University.

The board will be re-evaluating the program to make sure there are enough qualified professors and that all students can enroll in the classes they need to complete their advanced degree.

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