A handful of Austin-area organizations and educational institutions are working to combat projected nursing shortages with special programs, partnerships and scholarships.

Put in perspective

According to the Texas Center for Nursing Workforce Studies, by 2036, the supply of full-time registered nurses is expected to grow to 304,116. However, demand is projected to grow to 360,487, leaving a shortage of 56,370 RNs.

The center also reported that by 2036, the supply of licensed vocational nurses is expected to decrease to 67,387 while demand grows to 71,225, leaving a shortage of 3,839 LVNs.

A Workforce Solutions Capital Area report stated that registered nurses, radiology technicians and surgical technicians face severe shortages and are priority occupations to fill. Together, these sectors are expected to grow 2.7% each year over the next decade.

Ashley King, WSCA’s director of healthcare partnerships, said that in Austin:
  • 16,000 nurses are currently employed
  • An additional 4,000 will be needed in the next 10 years
A closer look

King said the two biggest barriers for growing the nursing workforce are clinical placements and faculty. While there is a “huge interest” in nursing, and students are applying, there are a limited number of spots.

“We have 10 different schools of nursing here in Austin. ... All of those programs are looking to expand,” King said. “We do have [Austin Community College] hoping to double the number of nursing students they have with the addition at the Hays campus that opens in 2027.”

Through WSCA’s Central Texas Healthcare Partnership with Ascension Seton, Baylor Scott & White Health and St. David’s HealthCare, King said they have nearly doubled the number of nursing graduates in the last five years.

What’s being done

Over 850 students have graduated from Concordia University Texas' Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing program since its inception in Austin in 2017.

The 16-month program, which fast-tracks nursing degrees so students can get into the field faster, combines online classes with clinical rotations and practical learning in a simulation lab.

The program is designed for students who have a degree outside of nursing and can keep up with the pace of an accelerated program, according to Dr. Amber Shammas, Concordia Texas' College of Health Sciences director.

Beginning in the fall 2024 term, Concordia Texas will provide a $10,000 Workforce Development Scholarship to be used toward the ABSN program, open for all eligible students.

Shammas said one of the biggest barriers for students who are interested in nursing is the cost of a program.

“That cost factor with tuition; with books; resources that they need for the program; uniforms; supplies, it tends to be pretty high,” Shammas said. “We see a lot of students that maybe are interested but just don't have the financial capability of enrolling in a program. So the hope would be that this will help support their financial ability to start a program.”

One more thing

April 2024 ABSN graduate Michael Guerrero added that through personal experience, health fairs and access to hands-on practice at the K-12 level—such as blood pressure tests, listening through a stethoscope or performing CPR on a mannequin—is key to bringing in prospective nurses.

“Letting them get to touch medical equipment that nurses get to use on a day-to-day basis. ... To put it into their hands so they can have something tangible and kind of view themselves doing it, I think that was huge for me,” Guerrero said.

WSCA’s health care partnership also works to gauge K-12 interest through activities such as:
  • Its biannual Nursing Academy, where Central Texas high schoolers spend a day participating in interactive nursing labs
  • Holding observation clinical placements at local hospitals, where high schoolers rotate through several different units to see what job opportunities there are
  • Hosting informational sessions for teachers and counselors so they know about in-demand jobs, such as nursing