Emory opens learning center amid country-wide nursing shortage

(Credit: Emory University Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing) (Supplied)

The ribbon is cut, and now the doors are open to downtown Decatur's brand new Emory Nursing Learning Center, ENLC. The ENLC is what staff at Emory University is hoping will answer the country's nursing shortage that's projected to worsen by 2030.

The new center was a $20.6M capital investment that was set to be completed by Feb. 2022. At nearly five months ahead of schedule, faculty and staff were able to host a ribbon cutting ceremony Sept. 16 to unveil the 70,000-square-foot facility.

"We are excited to provide this immersive learning experience for our students," says Linda McCauley, dean of the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing. "This realistic environment featuring state-of-the-art classrooms and simulation lab space will uniquely prepare our students to care for patients in a wide variety of clinical and home health settings. When you step into the building, you know that you have arrived at a place dedicated to preparing nurse leaders."

This comes in the middle of what the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration has identified as a 16-year-long deficit in the nursing workforce.

In a 2017 study, the HRSA looked at the supply and demand for nurses across the United States, dating back to 2014. Researchers then projected where the industry would go by 2030. As it turns out, supply and demand projections for the nursing workforce in the state of Georgia are critical.

According to that study, which assumed each state's individual supply and demand were equal in 2014, Georgia is projected to experience a 2.2% deficit of registered nurses and a 28.9% deficit of licensed practical nurses by 2030. In other words, there won't be enough nurses to satisfy the amount of patients expected.


Several studies, including "Covid-19 Impacts on Social Work and Nursing Now and into the Future", cite burnout from the coronavirus pandemic as a leading factor in the decrease of nurses. In the earlier phases of COVID-19, nurses were on the frontline working overtime to treat patients.

"It's been a constant overwhelming feeling of anxiety and fear," Danielle Giaritelli, a registered nurse at Emory told FOX 5 Atlanta in 2020 just months after the first confirmed COVID-19 case hit the U.S.

11% of nurses in another study filed by the National Library of Medicine indicated that they intended to leave their jobs due to stress related to the pandemic. 

Representatives from the university say the ENLC was specifically created as a hopeful answer to the nursing shortage in the country.

Lisa Muirhead, the associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion, tells FOX 5 that the school is focused on broadening its recruitment strategy to encourage students from historically underrepresented groups in nursing to apply.

Muirhead says approximately 561 students graduated from the School of Nursing between Aug. 2020 - May 2021. The following year, that number grew to 680. 

Over 52% of the study body now are from underrepresented groups, Muirhead says.

(Credit: Emory University Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing)

The new facility includes a studio media center, classrooms, student commons areas, offices, and conference rooms.

University representatives say students there now have in-person and remote learning capabilities, an Innovation Hub and an apartment simulation lab. Other simulation labs within the center include mock telehealth, clinical, and hospital settings with high-tech equipment.

"The future of the nursing workforce depends on the education and development of the next generation of nurses," said Muirhead. "We are fortunate to contribute to this national effort to expand the nursing workforce."

With this new facility and focus, the faculty at the School of Nursing hope to breathe new life into the workforce.