• Confessions of a Community College Dean

    In which a veteran of cultural studies seminars in the 1990s moves into academic administration and finds himself a married suburban father of two. Foucault, plus lawn care.


Recruiting Retired Nurses

Could one problem solve another?

January 26, 2023

This one is more speculative than usual. I’m putting it out there in hopes that someone else has already figured this out and would be willing to share lessons learned.

We know that the pandemic has been rough on the medical profession generally. Nurses have retired at an accelerated rate, I’m told, and some hospitals are really struggling to fill the gaps. In the meantime, community college nursing programs—all hail community college nursing programs—consistently struggle to attract qualified faculty in nursing. The salaries simply aren’t competitive with what nurses can make in the industry.

Could one problem solve the other? In other words, has anyone figured out a deliberate and scalable way to recruit retiring nurses as instructors?

It wouldn’t be as simple as dropping them in front of a class. Teaching is a skill in itself, and there’s no shortage of quirky legalisms in higher ed that can be very different from those on a hospital floor. A sustainable solution would have to involve meaningful teacher training. It would probably have to happen at a consortial level for economies of scale to make it affordable.

I’m thinking there could be upside on all sides. Yes, that’s a weirdly mixed metaphor, but don’t let that get in the way.

For the retiring nurses, it would be a way to continue to earn an income after leaving the hospital. It would also be a way to pass along what they’ve learned over the years. For the colleges, it would be a way to ensure that they have a steady stream of knowledgeable people to teach crucial classes. For students, it would be a way to ensure that classes get taught, and that they’re taught by people who understand the real settings in which the students will work. For states and localities, it would ensure that the programs they rely on to feed the local nursing workforce remain healthy. And for hospitals, it would reinforce the pipeline of new nurses entering the field. That’s no small thing.

If it were structured and well-known, hospitals and large practices could make it known to their employees who want to transition out. I could imagine some sort of phased retirement, in which they spend maybe two years as half-time in the field and half-time teaching before moving fully into teaching.

It strikes me as the sort of thing that could work through a long-term grant program and/or a public/private partnership. It would require some central coordination, so every party would have a go-to person, but the benefit should far overwhelm that cost.

So, a few questions for my wise and worldly readers. Has anyone done this systematically? If so, what lessons were learned that could inform someone exploring the idea? Any thoughtful feedback would be appreciated. As always, I can be reached via email at deandad (at) gmail (dot) com, on Twitter at @deandad or on Mastodon at at-sign deandad at-sign masto.ai. Thanks!

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Matt Reed

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