Nursing is a profession that is constantly evolving. Because of that, nursing education must also evolve. But there are many challenges that nursing students and educators face that inhibit change. This article will explore the current and future challenges and trends in nursing education in the United States.

Challenges in Nursing Education

COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically altered how nurses are taught. What used to be all in-person learning has now moved to a more virtual landscape. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, clinical sites have also been limited. Hospitals are dealing with their staffing shortage, making finding available nurses to precept nursing students almost impossible. This has caused many students to miss out on clinical experiences that their peers before them had taken part in.

The recent nursing shortage that has plagued our country has not only affected nursing working bedside, and it has also affected nursing instructors. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, U.S. nursing schools turned away 91,938 qualified applications from baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs in 2021 due to an insufficient number of faculty, clinical sites, classroom space, clinical preceptors, and budget constraints.

The aging population of nursing instructors in our country is also a challenge. The median age of nurses in the United States is 52 years old, making them close to retirement age.

Pay Inequality

According to nursejournal.org, pay inequality in nurse educator roles is a significant obstacle to attracting new faculty. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for a nurse educator is $75,470. Nurses with similar education levels make far more than nurse educators, with nurse practitioners making $114,510 annually, on average. Thus, many nurses are choosing more traditional clinical roles because of the opportunity to make more money.

Increased Need For Nurses

The nursing shortage is projected to continue for some time, and by 2025 there could be between 200,000 and 450,000 nursing jobs available. This has made nursing education challenging. Educational institutions have had to devise creative ways to combat the shortage of nurses in our country, especially in our rural areas. Many nursing schools are offering virtual options for students. Online nursing degree programs provide a way for nurses to obtain a degree while continuing to work full-time, keeping up with their work responsibilities and family obligations.

Decreased NCLEX Pass Rates

Over the last three years, there has been a significant decrease in the first-time pass rate of candidates taking the NCLEX Exam. In 2019 NCLEX Statistics from NCSBN show that the first-time pass rate was 88.18%. Most recently, in 2022, the first-time pass rate dropped to 79.90%. This has caused nursing education programs to reflect on their current curriculum and see if it is the best way of instruction to help students achieve success on the NCLEX examination.

Trends in Nursing Education

Technology

Technology in nursing is constantly evolving and changing, and nurses and nursing instructors must stay current on the latest changes. Many nursing schools have adopted virtual learning, improved simulations, and telehealth options into their curriculum. Another facet of technology that is emerging in the nursing field is artificial intelligence. Artificial Intelligence or AI will affect numerous areas of nursing education including administration, clinical care, curriculum, as well as research. AI helps to streamline certain processes and workflows allowing nurses more time to provide quality and safe care to patients.

Changes in Curriculum

Due to the NCLEX shifting from the traditional exam to the Next Generation NCLEX, nursing schools will have to change the style of their teaching and their exams as well. The new style of exam will focus heavily on nursing clinical judgment. Clinical judgment, as defined by the American Association of Colleges of Nurses, refers to the process by which nurses make decisions based on nursing knowledge, other disciplinary understanding, critical thinking, and clinical reasoning. To test clinical judgment, the NCLEX plans to incorporate more case studies, like you would see in the real world, to reflect the kinds of decisions nurses have to make in various healthcare settings. Because of these changes, the nursing school curriculum will have to adapt. One way nursing programs can adapt is by adopting a competency-based education model. AACN defines competency-based education[3] as “a system of instruction, assessment, feedback, self-reflection, and academic reporting based on students demonstrating that they have learned the knowledge, attitudes, motivations, self-perceptions, and skills expected of them as they progress through their education.” The benefits of competency-based education are:

Increase in Nurses with Advanced Degrees

Many hospitals and institutions require their nurses to have bachelor’s degrees. The number of nurses who continue and get their master’s degree is rising. 13.2 percent of the current nursing workforce hold masters or doctoral degrees. As we discussed earlier, a monetary increase with a master’s degree is one of the main factors for nurses to pursue an advanced degree.

Conclusion

Staying ahead of these changes and adapting to the current challenges will be essential for nursing instructors and students alike to continue being successful in their nursing programs and careers.

Feuer Nursing Review’s comprehensive content-based review course has been helping repeat test takers and foreign trained nurses pass the NCLEX RN/LPN exam since 1971. We have updated our curriculum and incorporated the clinical judgement model to effectively prepare students for the Next Generation NCLEX (NGN) exam.

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We are here to help you on your NCLEX journey.

Written by Feuer Nursing Review.