The population of the United States will likely undergo a considerable transformation in the coming decades, becoming substantially older and more racially and ethnically diverse. At the same time, threats of a worsening nursing shortage could affect the delivery of healthcare. Ideally, the demographics of the nursing workforce would mirror the patient population and, in turn, improve the likelihood that healthcare systems provide culturally competent care.
Nurse educators play an integral role in producing a highly skilled, compassionate and diverse workforce. However, minorities are significantly underrepresented in these positions. Educators who reflect a diverse culture can often provide students with unique insights, particularly regarding cultural competence standards and other disparities related to race and ethnicity. They may also attract more minority students to Master of Science in Nursing Education (MSN) programs, thereby increasing the overall number of minority educators.
The demographic makeup of the U.S. will likely change significantly over the next several decades. According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. will become a majority-minority nation in 2043, meaning no racial group will be the majority. By 2060, the Hispanic population will more than double, so approximately one of every three residents will be of Hispanic origin.
Similarly, projections indicate that the Asian population will also double and the African American population will grow by 20 million. Experts predict increases in every racial group, except for non-Hispanic whites. By 2060, minorities will comprise 57 percent of the total population — a substantial jump over the 37 percent of minority residents in 2012.
Moreover, the aging Baby Boomers are increasing the percentages of the elderly population. By 2029, more than 20 percent of the nation’s residents will be age 65 or older. An aging population requiring more healthcare services may strain the healthcare industry. Producing a nursing workforce who can meet both the cultural needs of a diverse population as well as the demands of the aging is imperative — and largely reliant on the ability to increase minority nurse faculty and educators.
Minority Educator Shortages
Although there are currently more than 3 million professionally active licensed nurses (and job growth will likely rise 16 percent through 2024), the potential for a nursing shortage — including too few minority nurses and educators — remains. Estimates show that an additional one million nurses will be necessary through 2022 due to job growth and attrition.
Since less than 20 percent of nurses come from a minority ethnicity, nursing schools may need to attract more minority students. The 2013 National Workforce Survey of RNs found that Hispanic and Latino/a nurses accounted for only 3 percent of the workforce, while Asian and African American groups each accounted for 6 percent. In total, only 19 percent of licensed nurses belonged to a minority group, representing a significant discrepancy between the diversity of nurses and patients.
Racial and ethnic disparities are even more apparent among nurse educators. The same study reported that only 13 percent of nursing faculty were from minority groups. In 2014, New Hampshire did not employ any minority faculty within the state, and in five other states, minority faculty members accounted for less than 5 percent of state totals.
The next generation of minority students, however, are pursuing degrees that may lead to roles in academia. Of the students enrolled in master’s and research-focused doctoral programs, 31.9 and 29.7 percent identified as minorities, respectively. While those enrollment numbers are closer to equalizing racial and ethnic representation, another factor may hinder that process.
Many nursing schools cannot accommodate interested applicants. A report by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing found that U.S. nursing programs turned away nearly 70,000 qualified applicants in 2014. More than 15,000 of those were nurses, including those from diverse racial backgrounds. The lack of qualified faculty was one of the main reasons for the low acceptance rates.
Diversity in Nurse Education
While nursing programs have seen an increase in the minority groups represented among newly licensed nurses — and even with minority enrollment at the master’s and doctorate levels hovering around 30 percent — there still remains a substantial disparity. Only 14.4 percent of nurse faculty members belonged to a minority group as of 2014. The data indicates that minority nurses are either unable to complete their degree programs, or if they do, they are choosing not to pursue teaching positions. There may be other extenuating circumstances, including the lack of faculty role models with whom minority students can identify, hindering that career path as well.
With many nursing programs turning away qualified students and university faculty failing to mirror the diversity of the student and nursing populations, the underrepresentation of minorities persists. While some nursing programs have recruited minority faculty members, many other programs are still understaffed — both in overall faculty and in racial and ethnic representation.
The Call for Minority Educators
As the nation’s population grows more diverse, so should the nursing workforce. By doing so, nurses can provide more culturally competent care to patients. Increasing the number of minority nurse educators is key, however, as they are instrumental in presenting alternate perspectives and serving as role models for students.
Learn more about the UT Arlington online MSN in Nursing Education program.
Budden, J. S., Zhong, E. H., Moulton, P., & Cimiotti, J. P. (2013, July). Highlights of the National Workforce Survey of Registered Nurses. National Council of State Boards of Nursing
Colby, S. L., & Ortman, J. M. (2014, May). The Baby Boom Cohort in the United States: 2012 to 2060. United States Census Bureau
New AACN Data Confirm Enrollment Surge in Schools of Nursing. (2015, March 9). American Association of Colleges of Nursing
Nursing Faculty: A Spotlight on Diversity. (2015, October). American Association of Colleges of Nursing
Registered Nurses. (2015, December 17). BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook
Table 8. Occupations with the largest projected number of job openings due to growth and replacement needs, 2012 and projected 2022. (2013, December 19). BLS Economic News Release
Total Number of Professionally Active Nurses. (2016, April). The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation
U.S. Census Bureau Projections Show a Slower Growing, Older, More Diverse Nation a Half Century from Now. (2012, December 12). United States Census Bureau
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