Capacity is a Problem for Nursing Schools

I’ve written in the past about the need to increase the capacity of medical schools because of doctor shortages. The same thing is true when it comes to nursing schools and the current shortage of nurses.

Nearly 40,000 qualified applicants were turned away from undergraduate nursing-school programs in 2009 (though enrollment did increase 3.5 percent), according to a just-released annual survey by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

An article in Health Leaders Media, written by John Commins, summarizes the report’s findings.

Based on data received from 318 schools of nursing, the primary barriers to accepting all qualified students at nursing colleges and universities continue to be a shortage of faculty (60.7%) and an insufficient number of clinical placement sites (61%). With cuts in state funding to schools of nursing last year, the number of schools reporting budget cuts/insufficient budget as a primary reason for turning students away more than doubled from 14.8% in 2008 to 31.1% in 2009.

The article also notes that there is some good news: Enrollments in graduate nursing programs increased significantly, about 10 percent in master’s programs and about 20 percent in doctoral programs.

I write about this because one of the biggest benefits of lean principles is often an increase in capacity.

In this case, the limiting factors listed above seem to be largely outside the control of nursing schools. But if the schools and the agencies they work with can cooperate to view the system holistically, and use lean thinking to study the way applicants/students flow through the system, I suspect a lot can be achieved.

I hope it will be.

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