Despite the ever-growing shortage of nurses, nursing schools are turning away qualified applicants in record numbers, due to a sheer lack of space. In 2006, one in three qualified applicants was rejected. In 2007, 31,000 eligible applicants were denied entry. That number is up sharply from only 3,600 rejections in 2002.

Despite what one might think from the large number of rejections, that’s only part of the story. There are additional thousands more qualified and interested applicants for nursing schools who don’t even bother to apply because rumors of imminent rejection have deterred them. These are the findings of a survey of nursing programs conducted by the National League for Nursing (NLN). Nursing schools reported an 8.7% drop in applicants, some 30,000 fewer applications, in 2006 compared to 2005.

This drop in applications leaves nursing schools unfazed, however, as they are still overwhelmed with admission applications from far more qualified applicants than they could possibly accept. For example, the University of Colorado Denver School of Nursing combs through 1,000 applications for just 200 to 230 seats each year.

Not only is there a lack of instructors and classroom space in the nursing schools themselves, but there are not enough training slots in doctors’ offices and local hospitals for each nursing school student. One solution to this problem was put forth at Porter Adventist Hospital in Denver. Porter Adventist provided incentives for hospital nurses who were willing to work with nursing students. The hospital agreed to pay the full salary for nurses who would go on to become part-time faculty, wiping out the threat of a pay cut for those nurses. This allowed nurses to pursue their master’s degrees, which the hospital hopes will alleviate some of the teaching shortage in coming years. The hospital also gained access to nurses-in-training that might be interested in signing on for full-time work after graduation.

Dark Daily observes that, for all the discussion about the shortage of nurses, little attention is given to the fact that thousands of qualified applicants are knocking at the doors of nursing schools and are being denied admission simply because there is not enough classroom space and not enough instructors. By comparison, the shortage of medical technologists (MTs) to staff the nation’s medical laboratories is rooted in two factors. First, the number of active MT training programs was greatly reduced during the past decade, leaving many communities around the United States without any local MT training program. Second, many fewer people are interested in a career as a medical technologist today, compared even to just a few years ago. Thus, some active MT training programs must actively recruit students to fill up all the available spaces for each term.

Going forward, the laboratory medicine profession must address both of these factors if it is to maintain an adequate supply of fully-trained medical technologists to staff the nation’s clinical laboratories. During this decade, little progress has been made on either problem. Thus, the impeding wave of retirements by the baby boomer MTs is likely to further exacerbate the already vexing shortage of medical technologists and other skilled laboratory professionals.

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