University of Houston’s College of Nursing Receives $20 Million Gift to Address Labor Shortage

The multimillion-dollar donation will fund three professorships and support research, education, scholarships, and fellowships at the College of Nursing.
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Published on June 30, 2023
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  • Over the past 22 years, there has been a significant shortage of nurses across the U.S., including in Texas.
  • Increased feelings of burnout — particularly amid the COVID-19 pandemic — pushed the industry shortage further.
  • Philanthropists Andy and Barbara Gessner's $20 million donation to the University of Houston College of Nursing is aimed at increasing the number of educators and learning opportunities for current and prospective nursing students.

Two Texas philanthropists have committed $20 million to the University of Houston College of Nursing in hopes of fueling efforts to train more nurses and help ease Texas' nursing shortage.

Andy Gessner and his wife, Barbara, announced they would commit $20 million to his alma mater's nursing school, which now will be renamed the Andy and Barbara Gessner College of Nursing.

"We believe in nurses and we need more of them right now," said Andy Gessner in a statement. "We’re all going to need a nurse at some time in our lives, and there's just not enough in the workforce or being educated for the future. The primary intent of our gift is to make more nurses available when we need them, now and in the future."

The gift to the College of Nursing will establish three endowed nursing professorships designed to help "attract and retain outstanding nursing scholars who specialize in health care innovation," the statement reads.

The gift will also set up scholarships and grad student fellowships, and will support adjunct faculty, research efforts, and nursing education and clinical learning activities.

The Nursing Shortage in Texas

The nation is in the midst of a well-documented and ongoing shortage of nurses that was only further inflamed by the COVID-19 pandemic. A recent workforce survey revealed that over just the past few years, nearly 100,000 registered nurses (RNs) have left the field. By 2027, an estimated 800,000 more nurses say they plan to do the same.

Nurses have long expressed the toll their profession takes on their well-being and their ability to care for patients. Overworked and exhausted — sometimes for low pay — nurses tend to become discouraged from continuing the job.

Moreover, the nursing workforce is aging. A 2020 study from the National Council of State Boards of Nursing found the median age of RNs was 52 years old, while the median age for licensed practical nurses and licensed vocational nurses was 53 years old. It's an area the Gessners said they hoped to address by facilitating the education of new nurses.

"The silver tsunami is coming," said Barbara Gessner in the statement. "We are certainly going to need more nurses as the population gets older, so the medical profession will be put to the test. It's always been an honorable profession, and we believe in that tender, compassionate care that nurses provide."

The state of Texas is no exception to these trends. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, the state is currently experiencing a shortage of 33,340 registered nurses, with that number projected to hit nearly 50,000 — or 15% of the state's total unmet RN workforce demand — by 2030.