There has been a lot of talk lately about a shortage of nurses in the US. We generally pooh-pooh any talk about job shortages of any kind in the US on this blog, since the “tech worker shortage” is one of the most massive, shameless and wicked hoaxes ever perpetrated on the American public.
However, in this case, there actually is a shortage of nurses here in the US. But – get this – it is NOT because of a lack of Americans who are qualified to be and who wish to be nurses.
The shortage is simply a matter of a shortage of nursing instructors – that is it! Nursing schools in the US are generally public schools, and are somewhat limited in the salaries they can pay.
Although nursing instructors here in California are probably paid about $30 an hour (my mother works for a local community college), my understanding is that nursing instructors can make much more working as nurses in the private sector.
Around here, nurses themselves are still paid about $30 an hour. To be a nursing instructor, you need a Masters or a PhD in Nursing. Why bother to get one of those, when you are going to make exactly zero dollars more?
The wages for the sort of senior nurse who would be eligible to be an instructor tend to be around $90,000 a year in California. Why take a 30% pay cut to teach school when there is more than enough demand for your present occupation?
One would think that the solution to this would just be to pay nursing instructors more to compete with the salaries in the private sector. University professors are well-paid in California.
13 years ago, professors at California State University system were paid about $63,000 a year on average. At the more prestigious University of California system, professors were being paid about $90,000 a year. Since they have strong unions, I assume that both salaries have gone up 20-30% since then to about $85,000 a year for CSU teachers and $120,000 a year for UC professors.
There is actually massive demand to get into nursing classes.
At the local community college, there is a lottery to get into the nursing program.
There are 500 students waiting to get in and only 50 positions available. I think they should let them in based on grades, but instead, everyone above a (fairly low) GPA is thrown into the pot and names are pulled out of the hat. This means that even students with a 4.0 GPA may be passed over by someone with a GPA much lower.
The state of California is outsourcing the training of nurses to Mexico due to cheaper labor costs and the ready availability of nursing instructors. Right now, up to 40 bilingual California nursing students are being considered for training in Mexico. This is causing some outrage amongst the anti-immigrant crowd, and I would generally be opposed to this sort of thing, but I do not see any alternative right now.