There’s an acute nursing shortage in the United States. Experienced nurses are retiring at a rapid clip, and there aren’t enough new nursing graduates to replenish the workforce, yet nursing schools are turning away thousands of qualified applicants.

There are currently about three million nurses in the United States. The country will need to produce more than one million new registered nurses by 2022 to fulfill its health care needs, according to the American Nurses Association.

In 2017, nursing schools turned away more than 56,000 qualified applicants from undergraduate nursing programs. Ten years ago nursing schools rejected around 30,000 applicants. Some applicants graduated high school at the top of their class with a 3.5 GPA or higher, but the competition to get into a nursing school is intense. One applicant reported that the school had 343 applications and only accepted 60 students.

Nursing schools are struggling to hire more qualified teachers. The annual national faculty vacancy rate in nursing programs is over 7%, equal to about two teachers per nursing school or a shortage of 1,565 teachers.

Better pay for working nurses is luring current and potential nurse educators away from teaching. The average salary of a nurse practitioner is $97,000 compared to an average salary of $78,575 for a nursing school assistant professor, according to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.

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