Top Oklahoma Nursing Schools, Colleges & Degree Programs
The nursing shortage in Oklahoma is likely to get worse before it starts to improve. Indeed, within the next five years, it is expected that there will be a demand for an additional 3,100 nurses. What is more worrisome is that these 3,100 nurses are needed in hospitals alone. Hence, if the vacancies at nursing homes, doctors’ offices, schools, home health care and clinics were included, the figure would be much larger.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for nurses will increase by 19% by 2020, not taking into consideration workforce migration. Oklahoma is no different and it is actually likely to have a higher needs. The baby boom population in Oklahoma is big and these people are retiring, aging and having increasingly complex healthcare needs. Hospitals across the state are now reporting that they are struggling.
State officials understand that the problem is national and not just endemic to Oklahoma. However, what does make Oklahoma unique is that it is a very rural state and some 63.15% of its residents live in medically underserved areas. Oklahoma also ranks one of the worst in the country in terms of its advanced practice nurses, with just 4.8% currently holding a master’s degree or above.
Unfortunately, the state is incapable of creating good quality community nursing programs due to the cost. As a result, students have a choice of just 9 schools registered with the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. These schools are seriously understaffed and their Nurse Educator faculty are aging and retiring rapidly. As a result, some 913 qualified students had to be turned away from the schools. Indeed, just 68% of all applicants were able to get to enrol in the nursing programs. This problem exists not just at the bigger schools, but also at the community colleges where students can achieve associate’s degrees.
Oklahoma has to work hard at attracting a new nursing workforce to its health care facilities and to its nursing schools. One way to achieve this is through high salaries. Unfortunately, the average salary for a registered nurse in Oklahoma is just $58,000, which is well below the national average. The best salaries are enjoyed by those with the highest degrees, and master’s degrees in particular. Hence, a lot of initiatives are being developed to increase the number of students who are able to take part in master’s degree programs, for instance by offering these programs online.