A national shortage of nursing faculty has helped The University of Texas nursing school obtain scholarship money for two doctoral students.

In February the Jonas Center for Nursing and Veterans Healthcare awarded UT a $20,000 grant, which the school matched, to provide a two-year scholarship award for Ashley Henneghan and Megan Pfitzinger Lippe.

The two students will also gain access to mentors and next year will attend a national conference in Washington, D.C., said Alexa Stuifbergen, dean of the UT nursing school. The school also benefited from the first round of Jonas Center nursing scholarships in 2012 when doctoral student Eduardo Chavez was awarded the same grant.

“[The scholarship is] a great opportunity for students to not only know what’s going on in their school but get the bigger perspective of the profession and its leadership,” Stuifbergen said.

An aging population and aging workforce contribute to the shortage of nursing educators, she said. Adding to the shortage, she said, is the fact that many nurses traditionally choose to pursue doctoral studies fairly late in their careers. Most nurses who finish a Ph.D. program are in their mid-40s.

“It’s wonderful to have them finish, but it doesn’t give them as much time to give back,” Stuifbergen said. “One of the efforts we’ve been making at UT–Austin and also as a profession as a whole is to encourage nurses to come back [to school] at a younger age and go through the program quicker.”

Henneghan, for example, went straight from receiving her master’s degree to UT’s doctoral program, Stuifbergen said.

The challenge, she said, is making sure nursing educator positions remain an attractive option. The Jonas Center program provides one outlet for ensuring more and better-prepared nurse educators, Stuifbergen said.

“As nurses have more options with advanced-practice nursing, it makes it more competitive,” she said. “But people do make that commitment to education for future generations.”


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