Texas Facing Shortage of Nurses

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas is in need of nurses.

Groups like the Texas Association of Hospitals estimate the state could be 70,000 nurses short by the year 2020. The problem isn’t necessarily for a lack of interest by students, but a combination of challenges.

Megan Pfitzinger Lippe, professor at the University of Texas School of Nursing, has a full class of students over the summer, all of whom have undergrad degrees in something else.

"I have students who are coming from business, students that are coming from economics, there's no one path," said Lippe.

The accelerated Master's degree course is full, like other undergraduate courses. Full of students like Adam Brunson, who traded in a life in the church for a life in the hospital. He says the move was personal.

"Walking through cancer with my sister for eight years, I got to see the impact of nurses through the years," said Brunson.

Lippe says there's no shortage of students like Adam going into the field. There's just only so many students they can take at a time.

"Just because of access to facilities to train them, and built space in the school, the limitation with that and the number of faculty,” said Lippe.

She said a growing number of nurses in the field don't have time to pursue the graduate and doctoral degrees needed to teach, which is creating a faculty shortage. There's also a lack of space. Surrounding the school is the construction of a massive medical district, centered by the new Dell Seton Medical Center.

Experts say the expansion is nice, but it's not enough to keep up with the growing demand.

"In 10 years that shortage will probably be 70,000 or 80,000 nurse openings we won't have people for," said Texas Hospital Association CEO, Ted Shaw.

His group speaks on behalf of more than 500 Texas medical centers across the state. All of which, he says are relying on their representatives at the Capitol to help alleviate the strain.

"They've been good so far, they've been investing in the nurse workforce, but we can do more."

Shaw points to past legislation responsible for The Hospital-Based Nursing Education Partnership Program and more current initiatives that expand Graduate Medical Education grants.