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Executive Summary

The Pacific Northwest, particularly Washington State, faces a critical shortage of nurses that threatens the quality and accessibility of healthcare. This white paper explores the educational challenges contributing to this shortage, including faculty under-resourcing, outdated educational infrastructure, and barriers to career progression from CNA to RN. We propose targeted legislative support, enhanced funding, and strategic educational reforms to address these issues comprehensively.


The nursing shortage in the Pacific Northwest has reached an alarming level, necessitating immediate and robust intervention. Washington State, in particular, requires a multifaceted approach to mitigate this crisis, focusing significantly on the educational pipeline that prepares future nursing professionals.

Current Situation and Legislative Efforts

The Washington State Hospital Association has emphasized the need for legislative measures to fill RN vacancies effectively. This initiative acknowledges the gap between the supply of qualified nursing professionals and the healthcare system’s demands.

Educational Challenges

Faculty Shortages

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) highlights a national crisis, where nursing programs turned away over 91,000 qualified applicants in 2021 due to faculty shortages. In Washington, this issue is exacerbated by the high retirement rates among current faculty and the significant disparities in compensation between clinical roles and academic positions. The AACN predicts that one-third of the faculty may retire by 2025, intensifying the urgency for recruitment and retention strategies.

Resource Limitations

Educational institutions face critical limitations in resources, impacting their ability to expand and enhance nursing programs. These include insufficient clinical sites, outdated technological infrastructure, and limited classroom space. The HRSA stresses the importance of developing distance learning infrastructure to mitigate these issues, especially in rural areas.

Analysis of Impacts

The understaffing and underresourcing of nursing education directly limit the number of new nurses entering the workforce, thereby perpetuating the shortage. The inability to expand nursing programs to meet demand not only hinders healthcare service delivery but also affects the overall health outcomes across communities.


  1. Legislative Support: Advocate for state and federal funding increases specifically earmarked for nursing education.
  2. Infrastructure Enhancement: Invest in modernizing educational facilities and technology, particularly for distance learning, to make education more accessible and effective.
  3. Faculty Development: Implement programs to attract and retain younger, diverse faculty members through competitive compensation and career development opportunities.
  4. Career Pathway Promotion: Increase awareness and accessibility of career pathways in nursing, particularly from CNA to LPN to RN, to ensure a continuous and expanded workforce.


The nursing shortage in the Pacific Northwest is a multifactorial issue that requires a concerted effort from educational institutions, healthcare facilities, and government bodies. By addressing the educational bottlenecks, particularly faculty shortages and resource limitations, Washington can pave the way for a robust healthcare system equipped to meet the demands of its population.


  1. AACN Nursing Faculty Shortage – American Association of Colleges of Nursing details the faculty shortage and its impact on nursing education. AACN Faculty Shortage Fact Sheet
  2. Special Survey on Vacant Faculty Positions – AACN’s October 2022 survey outlining current faculty vacancies in U.S. nursing schools. AACN Vacant Faculty Positions Survey
  3. HRSA’s Report on Developing Distance Learning Infrastructure – Health Resources and Services Administration emphasizes the need for improved distance learning infrastructure in nursing education. HRSA Report
  4. Training Direct on Being a CNA – Offers insights into the advantages of becoming a CNA, including job stability and fast-track training. Being a CNA Could Be the Right Fit for You
  5. Educator Shortage in Rural Areas of Washington – Discusses challenges faced by remote and rural school districts in Washington in creating a robust educator workforce. WA Educator Shortage Report

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