Publish Date: February 20, 2012
States nationwide are experiencing a shortage of both nurse faculty and practicing nurses. Several states are working to address both of these issues through legislation. The bills are proposing interesting strategies, including directly funding education, tax credits for faculty, and scholarships, loan forgiveness, and even childcare expenses for students. Different strategies may work in different states, depending on the politics and education infrastructure available.
INCREASE AND RETAIN NURSE FACULTY
Massachusetts Senate Bill 539 would require the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education to develop a program to provide matching grants to hospitals that commit resources or personnel to nurse education programs. It would also provide compensation to health care facilities to cover scheduled work time nurses spend teaching.
Mississippi House Bill 253 would provide state funding to nursing schools or degree programs with 100% enrollment during the 2011-2012 academic year to hire up to four additional faculty members for the 2012-2013 academic year. In order to receive the funding, a nursing school or program would have to increase its enrollment proportionately for each additional faculty member hired with the funding.
New Jersey is also exploring several ways to address the nurse faculty shortage. Senate Bill 3086 would establish the New Jersey Task Force to Address the Nurse Faculty Shortage. The task force would be charged with developing recommendations to promote a highly qualified, diverse nurse faculty workforce that will better connect academia and clinical practice. Senate Bill 1235 would provide grants in the amount of $50,000 to nursing education programs to support graduate education in nursing for current nursing faculty at the masters and doctoral levels.
West Virginia Senate Bill 384 would establish an annual tax credit of up to $3500 for full-time nurse educators that teach 1250 hours or more in either a public or private higher education nursing program.
INCREASING THE NUMBER OF NURSES
Alabama House Bill 83 and Senate Bill 44 would increase the amount of graduate degree scholarships for nurses from $3800 to $10,000 per year for nurses who qualify and agree to practice nursing in Alabama for at least two years. Scholarships would be awarded to 5% of those enrolled in graduate nursing programs. Applicants would be required to have lived in Alabama for at least one year prior to applying for a scholarship, have an Alabama professional nursing license, and agree to practice in Alabama for two years. A preference would be given to applicants pursuing a career in nursing education.
Massachusetts Senate Bill 539 would create a variety of methods to support nurses, including a scholarship program that would provide students with up to $3500 per semester, a loan repayment program that would provide up to $200 per month for 48 months for the repayment of education loans for employed nurses who graduated at the top 25 percent of their class, grants to higher education and health care institutions that promote the recruitment and retention of nurses, and the creation of a nursing corps program in which a group of high achievement nurses would mentor novice nurses to further the goals of the nursing profession.
Mississippi also has several bills to increase the number of nurses. House Bill 254 would require the State Board for Community and Junior Colleges to establish and implement an online program of Nursing Education so licensed practical nurses could receive additional academic training to obtain an Associate Degree in Nursing. Scholarships would be provided to students in the program. House Bill 220 would utilize unspent Temporary Assistance for Needy Families fund dollars to pay for education-related expenses of persons enrolled in nursing education courses as part of workforce training and would also pay for the child care expenses of those students while enrolled in the nursing education courses.
New Jersey Assembly Bill 2181 would establish the Nursing Student Incentive Loan and Loan Redemption Program to address the shortage of nurses in New Jersey. The program would provide loans and loan redemption up to $10,000 per year to finance undergraduate studies for students in exchange for full-time employment as a licensed practical nurse or registered professional nurse in the state.
Rhode Island Senate Bill 2317 would allow those who retired from state service as a registered nurse to be employed or reemployed to provide professional nursing care or services at a state-operated facility, including nursing program faculty at state-operated colleges, to earn up to $24,000 per year. Retirement benefits would be suspended for the duration of the employment or reemployment, although no deductions would be taken from the individual’s salary for retirement contribution.
These state initiatives are in line with the recent Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Institute of Medicine which calls for 80% of nurses to hold baccalaureate degrees by 2020. AORN will continue to monitor and report on these state initiatives to increase the availability of nurse faculty and funding for nurse education.