Addressing the Nursing Faculty Shortage in Illinois: A Critical Examination

For years, Illinois’ nursing higher education institutions have faced a growing challenge: a shortage of nursing faculty. This crisis has significant implications for the future of healthcare in the state, affecting not only the education and training of aspiring nurses but also the overall quality of patient care. In this post, we will delve into the root causes of the nursing faculty shortage in Illinois, its impact on healthcare, and potential solutions to address this pressing issue.

The Current Landscape:

Illinois, like many other states, is grappling with a shortage of nursing faculty. This shortage is multifaceted, with several contributing factors. 

1: An Aging Faculty Workforce

As the baby boomer generation ages, a large proportion of the current nursing faculty workforce is approaching retirement. As these experienced educators leave their positions, there is a noticeable gap in the recruitment of new faculty members to fill these roles.

2: Increased demand for nurses

Similarly, practicing nurses are retiring at a rate that exceeds the rate new nurses are entering the workforce. This has put increased pressure on nursing education, as demand for new nurses surges. 

3: Nurse burnout

Fueled by staffing shortages and the COVID-19 pandemic, nurse burnout is at an all-time high. This means that more nurses – both faculty and practitioners – are leaving the profession to pursue other career opportunities, placing additional strain on nursing programs and exacerbating the shortage of qualified faculty.

4: Pay discrepancies & educational limitations

Salaries for nursing faculty in Illinois lag behind much of the rest of the country. This means that it is difficult for Illinois institutions to attract top-tier faculty from out of state. Further, master’s and doctorate-prepared nurses can earn more by working in healthcare than they can by teaching, often by a large margin. 

In addition, another important point is that nursing PhD or DNP programs do not provide preparation for an educator. The industry often makes the assumption is if you are a great clinician, you will be a great educator—however, those of us in higher education know that is not true. There is a science behind nursing education, which most doctoral programs do not necessarily convey, nor do many doctoral programs provide much experience in direct teaching or the educational process.  

Impact on Nursing Education and Healthcare:

The shortage of nursing faculty has a direct impact on nursing education programs across the state. The shortage limits the abilities of Illinois institutions to grow nursing programs, meaning aspiring nursing school applicants are turned away. 

This bottleneck has a ripple effect on the entire healthcare system. Not only is the number of new nurses entering the workforce limited, but so too is the ability to educate more nursing faculty. As long as the state struggles to produce an adequate number of qualified nurses, healthcare facilities will face challenges in maintaining adequate staffing levels. As we have already established, shortages in nursing staff can lead to increased workloads, burnout, and more nurses exiting the profession. 

This all compounds to limit the number of available nurse faculty. And, this cycle is extremely difficult to break. 

But, Illinois’ institutions, and the Illinois Association of Colleges of Nursing, are working diligently in pursuit of a solution. 

Potential Solutions:

Addressing the nursing faculty shortage in Illinois requires a comprehensive approach involving collaboration between educational institutions, healthcare organizations, and policymakers. IACN member institutions are actively pursuing all three avenues, as well as: 

1: Investing in Faculty Development:

IACN member institutions strive to provide professional development opportunities for current nursing faculty that can help retain experienced educators. As related to the lack of educator training in PhD and DNP programs, one potential solution is to provide and encourage nursing education certificate programs that provide the necessary background to enable the PhD/DNP graduate to engage effectively and competently in the educational process.

2: Building Collaborations Between Healthcare Institutions and Schools:

IACN member institutions are building partnerships with healthcare organizations. These initiatives create opportunities for clinical placements, faculty mentorship programs, and shared resources. Additionally, they enhance the practical aspects of nursing education and strengthen the connection between academia and practice.

3: Pursuing Government Support and Funding:

IACN, and many of our member institutions, continually advocate for increased government support and funding for nursing education programs. This work involves lobbying for grants, scholarships, and funding initiatives aimed at expanding nursing faculty capacity.

4: Promoting of Alternative Educational Models:

Many IACN member institutions are exploring alternative educational models, such as online and hybrid programs, which can help reach a broader pool of potential nursing faculty candidates. Flexible educational options attract individuals with valuable clinical experience who are seeking a transition to academia.

5: Raising Public Awareness:

Finally, IACN works to raise awareness about the importance of nursing education and the current faculty shortage, in order to garner public support. The ultimate goal is to increase advocacy for policies and initiatives that address the root causes of the problem.


The nursing faculty shortage in Illinois is a complex and multifaceted challenge that requires urgent attention and strategic interventions. By understanding the root causes, acknowledging the impact on nursing education and healthcare, and implementing collaborative solutions, stakeholders can work together to ensure a robust and sustainable nursing workforce for the future. 

It is not only the future of nursing education that hangs in the balance but also the quality of healthcare services provided to the people of Illinois.