Samford University's Ida V. Moffett School of Nursing has received a federal grant designed to help ease the national shortage of nursing educators. Samford received the seventh largest award of the 106 Nurse Faculty Loan Program (NFLP) grants awarded to institutions across the U.S. for 2012-13.
The $854,146 grant, awarded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, will provide loans for graduate students pursuing an advanced degree with the intent to serve as faculty in a school of nursing.
Samford received the largest of three grants in the state of Alabama. The University of Alabama-Birmingham ($292,686) and the University of South Alabama ($95,098) also received grants this year.
The NFLP addresses a critical need in health care, according to Jane S. Martin, associate dean in the Ida V. Moffett School of Nursing. Students who receive the loans for master's or doctoral degree programs can have up to 85 percent of the loan forgiven in exchange for service as full-time nursing faculty members at an accredited school of nursing.
The 2012-13 grant will fund up to 25 new students, Martin said. Currently 43 Samford nursing graduate students receive funds from the loan program, and students can continue to receive loans as long as they maintain good academic standing. The Ida V. Moffett School of Nursing hopes to extend NFLP funds to every qualified nurse educator student in the 2012-13 year, Martin explained.
"There is a national shortage of both nurses and nurse educators, and the NFLP provides a great incentive to pursue a career in education," said Martin. "Increasing the number of highly qualified nurse educators is essential to the future of healthcare."
Faculty shortages in nursing schools across the country are limiting student capacity at a time when the need for professional registered nurses continues to grow, Martin explained. According to a study by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), nursing schools turned away more than 75,500 qualified applicants in 2011. Nearly two-thirds of the schools participating in the survey cited faculty shortages as a primary reason for not accepting all qualified applicants, she noted.
With the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in 2010, more than 32 million Americans will soon gain access to healthcare services, which will increase demand for registered nurses and advanced practice nurses, Martin noted. A U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report released in February 2012 estimates the expected number of employed nurses to grow from 2.74 million in 2010 to 3.45 million in 2020. The total number of job openings for nurses due to growth and replacements is projected to be 1.2 million by 2020.
Without additional faculty, enrollment in nursing schools cannot increase fast enough to keep up with demand, according to Martin. She cited a September 2011 study by the AACN in which 1,088 faculty vacancies were identified in a survey of 603 nursing schools with baccalaureate and/or graduate programs across the country. In addition to the vacancies, schools cited the need to create an additional 104 faculty positions to accommodate student demand.
"These federal dollars assist in the recruitment of high quality students for our programs and in the training of excellent nurse educators who will prepare the nurses of the future," said Martin. To date, 137 Samford students have benefited from NFLP grants and are serving as nursing educators across the country. Our unique online curriculum allows us to extend our efforts to address the nursing faculty shortage far beyond Alabama."
The NFLP was approved by Congress in 2002, and Samford was one of the first 55 nursing schools from across the U.S. to receive funds. To date, Samford has received nearly $3 million in NFLP grants.