Are nursing educators becoming endangered species?

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Are nursing educators becoming endangered species?

Unread post by NurseTogether1 »

For the last 15 years, Nigeria and other African countries have been struggling to answer the increasing demand for skilled healthcare professionals, and the deficit looks set to continue for the foreseeable future.

While this is also true for other professions in healthcare, from doctors to paramedics, the talent shortage facing the nursing profession is at a critical level in Nigeria, with less than 150,000 registered nurses to provide care for a population of 160 million. This leaves a nurse to patient ratio of 1 to every 1,066 of the population, more than 50 percent higher than the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommended minimum of 1 to every 700 people.

There are many factors contributing to the deficit, including an ageing workforce and a lack of graduates entering the nursing profession.

Qualified staff

Within Nigeria, there is also the extra pressure of losing a considerable percentage of qualified staff to Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, OECD, member countries. These countries are more prosperous and often attract nurses and nurse educators with the promise of more economically sound futures.

However, a study published in 2014 in the Open Journal of Nursing identified lack of nursing leadership as a major factor influencing recruitment and retention of nurses in Lagos health institutions. The article also mentioned the limited number of nursing schools in the state, which also happen to have a declining graduation rate.

Overall, there is a significant threat to the nation’s healthcare system. Nurses are leaving the profession faster than vacancies are being filled. This growing void between the number of nurse educators and the demand for trained nurses is a major concern at a time when there is greater demand for specialist nurses, such as midwives and those proficient in treating long-term health conditions such as diabetes. As majority of nurses prepare to retire within the next decade, what will happen to Nigeria’s healthcare system?

To help close the gap, it is important to proactively promote the benefits of transitioning into nursing academia; after all, retiring nurses are highly skilled and experienced professionals who may be ready to transition out of direct patient care but not prepared to give up nursing altogether.

As a result, Nigeria could create a community of educators who can begin to safeguard the future of the industry by training and inspiring nursing students. Instead of retiring, nurses can continue to contribute in one of many ways, such as becoming a part-time lecturer, mentoring students, or being a guest lecturer.

There is a need to demystify the world of academia so that the next generation doesn’t face the same problem. Although nurses may view a career in academia as somehow less impactful than physically caring for the infirm, an academic career can be just as rewarding when considering their own quality of life, the satisfaction they will feel training others, and their ability to effect positive social change.

With a greater focus that includes career coaching and advice, becoming a nurse educator doesn’t have to be a phase before retirement; rather, it can be a professional goal that nurses aspire to achieve sooner in their careers.

To help facilitate this, it’s paramount to make it easy for nurses to continue their passion for helping people, whether that’s directly with patients or in the classroom. With minimal local nursing school options in Nigeria, online education can help prepare and build the workforce the country desperately needs.

Also, since nurses’ schedules often vary, online education not only offers the flexibility to earn a degree on one’s own time, but it also enables students to learn best practices from nurses and faculty around the world.

As Nigeria continues its momentous growth, its healthcare system needs to be staffed with trained nurses who are prepared to support the impact of this growth, and the country’s seasoned nurses can be a first line of defence to help guarantee the future of the people. It will be important to have an academic environment that supports all those who wish to ensure the field of nursing will endure.

Andrea Lindell, PhD, is an Associate Dean at Walden University School of Nursing. ... d-species/
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