Alaska needs to train more nurses, but it doesn't have enough nursing faculty to meet demand

5/12/2022 5:15:00 AM

Experts say increasing Alaska's reliance on out-of-state health care workers is economically untenable. But one big roadblock to training a homegrown workforce is hiring enough nursing faculty at the state’s university.

Alaska relies heavily on health care workers who come from outside of the state and are less likely to stay. As a result, Alaska has some of the most expensive health care in the nation. that from an economic standpoint, the state has to be able to develop its own health care workforce or those costs could go up even more.

“Our pipeline, and how we’re developing Alaskans to go and take health care jobs, is underperforming so severely, that we really can only go up,” he said. “We’re so bad right now, that we can only really improve.”

He says there is homegrown interest in health care education, but there’s a huge problem: the state’s biggest nursing program has to turn away two applicants for each one they accept. “We get a lot more applications than what we have seats,” said Carla Hagen, director of the nursing program at the University of Alaska Anchorage.

“Just as there’s a nursing shortage, there’s also a nursing faculty shortage. So obviously, if we had more nursing faculty, we would be able to open the doors wider, so to speak,” she said. She says academia doesn’t typically pay as much as being a practicing nurse, which is another challenge.

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