Health Secretary Tommy Thompson Tackles the Growing Shortage of Nurses

    Health Secretary Tackles the Growing Shortage of Nurses
    Medicine: Thompson will seek extra education funds. He also touts new rapid response team.
    October 1 2002

    Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson said Monday that he is asking Congress for additional money for nursing education, and he pledged to put his energy behind funding that the American Nurses Assn. says it needs to inject the profession with new blood.

    Thompson also announced the creation of the National Nurses Response Team, a nationwide mobilization similar in concept to the National Guard, to respond to bioterrorism or disease outbreaks.

    "In the coming years, projections are that there simply won't be enough [nurses] to meet the vital health needs of our citizens," he said at a news conference. "If those numbers continue, we're going to be faced with a potentially dangerous shortage of nurses within the next two decades."

    The response team program will compile a list of specially trained volunteer nurses willing to be deployed for two weeks to respond to a shortage of health-care professionals. The team could be used for mass vaccinations in the event of a bioterrorism attack, or to treat injuries at natural disasters.

    Barbara A. Blakeney, president of the nurses association, which represents the nation's 2.6 million registered nurses, said that 900 nurses have volunteered, and that 2,000 are expected once word spreads. The volunteers will be trained, compensated for their time and will be able to resume their jobs once deployment ends.

    But to be a success, more nurses are needed, Thompson said.

    His pledge to help find more funding for nursing education comes as his department, in a report released in July, estimates that the number of nurses nationwide is lagging behind the need. By 2005, for example, California is predicted to have 162,645 registered nurses, but it will need 181,054--a shortage of 10%. By 2020, if the trend continues, California will need 263,673 registered nurses, but will have only 55% of the need filled--142,978 nurses.

    One place the shortage is being felt is at UCLA Medical Center.

    "The difficulty we're facing in California is not having enough nursing schools, the lack of four-year and two-year programs," said Heidi Crooks, its senior associate director of operations and patient care. "It's not a lack of interest."

    Having more faculty and resources for training is dependent on the number of nurses attending postgraduate programs, which is directly tied to the number of students enrolling in nursing programs, Blakeney said.

    Thompson and the nurses group have a California ally in Congress in their effort to increase the number of registered nurses. Rep. Lois Capps (D-Santa Barbara) played a key role in passing the Nursing Reinvestment Act, which President Bush signed in August.

    The act, for which appropriations have not yet been provided, expands programs to help nursing students repay loans and creates additional scholarships. In exchange, graduates are required to work in nursing for four years. It also provides loan repayment for nurses with advance degrees who agree to teach in nursing schools.

    Blakeney and Thompson said Monday that funding the act, which carries a $250-million price tag, is key to recruiting and retaining nursing students, and therefore is critical to the nation's health.

    Thompson also asked Congress to increase funding for nursing education from $93 million to $100 million for the coming fiscal year.

    For the first time in seven years, college nursing programs have seen enrollment increase, said Kathleen Ann Long, president of the American Assn. of Colleges of Nursing and dean of the University of Florida's College of Nursing.

    "There has been lots of publicity given to the nursing shortage, and employing agencies are letting students know there is more interest and a better working environment," she said.
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  3. by   Youda
    They don't have a smilie for a "big sigh."

    Yes, education will help.
    But, when are "they" ever going to figure out that RETENTION is the critical factor, and there will NEVER be retention as long as nurses are treated like what's in most bedpans.
  4. by   SharonH, RN
    Let me add a *yawn* to Youda's sigh. More focus on bringing in newbies, no focus on keeping nurses. Whateva!
  5. by   NRSKarenRN
    Part of this bill is to earmark $$$$ for retention. Let your congressman/woman know this is where you want the money spent!
  6. by   sjoe
    "employing agencies are letting students know there is more interest and a better working environment," she said.

    Well, that is certainly news to many of us on this BB!
  7. by   tonicareer
    So who will be eligible for this new money? US students who now don't qualify despite straight A's and perfect attendence? Or will it go to recruit foreign nurses? Will it be disbursed to the states and sit in an account earning interest? Will it help to open some new nursing schools? When you keep doing things the same way you get the same results. Why not let any american citizen who has the grades have money for tuition and books and forget all the other stupid critera? (I'm not talking about forgetting laws about criminal history and drug abuse) There are so many Americans who want to go to nursing school and can't get in due to shortage of space and lack of money. Why don't these lawmakers change the rules about who qualifies for the money?
  8. by   ICUBecky
    money for education is great if you are a nursing student... but what about those of us who work our buts off day in and day out, getting no respect?
  9. by   rncountry
    This is what you need to write or call your representatives about. Ask them the hard questions. Explain to them the existing issues that are pushing nurses from the bedside. They will not know or get it if the currently practicing nurses do not tell them.
    I know I am tired tonight, and today was one of those days when I asked myself why I am still a nurse? Today was a good day for me to sit down and write my representatives because I really wondered what the hell I was doing still practicing, and it was good to be able to let my reps know exactly what I was feeling and why. Not the job, no. The stupid idiotic rules that are making it harder for me to do what I need to do for my patients. Idiot administrators who seemed clueless today. No not seemed, were clueless. I like what I do, I like my coworkers. But seriously wondered if my management types had a severe case of dementia today. And so I wrote my reps long letters because at this point in time I am seriously considering if this is the profession I will stick with. Right at this moment if I could do anything else that was a decent paying job, I would go do it. And I wanted my legislators to know exactly why I feel that way. I suggest others do the same.
  10. by   tonicareer
    Well of course nurses should be paid more. Ratios should be better too. There are many problems to be addressed. I don't want to graduate from school (if i ever scratch together the money) and have the problems that existing nurses are having. The public is just beginning to be aware of the nursing shortage. Yes I know there are tons of nurses who don't want to work under these terrible conditions. We must education the public about why nurses don't want to work in hospitals and nursing homes.
  11. by   NRSKarenRN
    read ana' s summary of the bill [pdf]

    section on
    nurse education, retention, and practice grants:

    amends current basic nurse education act authority to create three separate concentrations: education, practice, and retention. within the new retention authority, provides secretary with the ability to award grants to eligible entities (schools of nursing, health care facilities, or coalitions of schools and facilities) to promote career advancement for nursing personnel (rns, lpns, cnas, hhas), to promote specialty training, to develop pre-entry programs, and to support mentoring and career counseling.

    within the new retention authority, allows secretary to award grants to eligible entities to improve patient care sensitive to nursing activities by enhancing collaboration among health care professionals, and by promoting nurse involvement in the organizational and decision making processes of the health care facility.
    these grants are designed to encourage facilities to implement the american nurses credentialing center's (ancc's) magnet recognition program criteria for excellence in nursing services.

    full text of act:

    sec. 831. nurse education, practice, and retention grants.

    ``(a) education priority areas.--the secretary may award grants to
    or enter into contracts with eligible entities for--
    ``(1) expanding the enrollment in baccalaureate nursing
    ``(2) developing and implementing internship and residency
    programs to encourage mentoring and the development of
    specialties; or
    ``(3) providing education in new technologies, including
    distance learning methodologies.

    ``(b) practice priority areas.--the secretary may award grants to or
    enter into contracts with eligible entities for--
    ``(1) establishing or expanding nursing practice
    arrangements in noninstitutional settings to demonstrate methods
    to improve access to primary health care in medically
    underserved communities;
    ``(2) providing care for underserved populations and other
    high-risk groups such as the elderly, individuals with hiv/aids,
    substance abusers, the homeless, and victims of domestic
    ``(3) providing managed care, quality improvement, and other
    skills needed to practice in existing and emerging organized
    health care systems; or
    ``(4) developing cultural competencies among nurses.

    ``(c) retention priority areas.--the secretary may award grants to and enter into contracts with eligible entities to enhance the nursing workforce by initiating and maintaining nurse retention programs pursuant to paragraph (1) or (2).
    ``(1) grants for career ladder programs.--the secretary may award grants to and enter into contracts with eligible entities for programs--
    ``(a) to promote career advancement for nursing
    personnel in a variety of training settings, cross
    training or specialty training among diverse population
    groups, and the advancement of individuals including to
    become professional nurses, advanced education nurses,
    licensed practical nurses, certified nurse assistants,
    and home health aides; and
    ``(b) to assist individuals in obtaining education
    and training required to enter the nursing profession
    and advance within such profession, such as by providing
    career counseling and mentoring.
    ``(2) enhancing patient care delivery systems.--
    ``(a) grants.--the secretary may award grants to
    eligible entities to improve the retention of nurses and
    enhance patient care that is directly related to nursing
    activities by enhancing collaboration and communication
    among nurses and other health care professionals, and
    by promoting nurse involvement in the organizational and
    clinical decisionmaking processes of a health care
    ``(b) preference.--in making awards of grants under
    this paragraph, the secretary shall give a preference to
    applicants that have not previously received an award
    under this paragraph.
    ``(c) continuation of an award.--the secretary shall
    make continuation of any award under this paragraph
    beyond the second year of such award contingent on the
    recipient of such award having demonstrated to the
    secretary measurable and substantive improvement in
    nurse retention or patient care.

    ``(d) other priority areas.--the secretary may award grants to or enter into contracts with eligible entities to address other areas that are of high priority to nurse education, practice, and retention, as determined by the secretary.

    governments determination of health professional shortage areas

    look here to locate areas that would qualify you to fulfill above requirments. not all in high crime areas or rural setings. you'll be surprised.
    Last edit by NRSKarenRN on Oct 5, '02
  12. by   suni
    retaining nurses is key to mentoring the new grads. unfortunately till we get the salary and respect we have worked so hard for , nurses will continue to leave the bedside. nurse reinvestment act is a good start but we need to let our representatives and senate know what needs to be done to keep us at the bedside and ensure quality patient care
  13. by   Youda
    Forgive me for being a pessimist. I'm a pessimst in this area from conditioning and experience!

    Retention and education. And just HOW much of this money will end up in corporate executives' pockets? How much will go to non-identifiable non-concrete things like respect, workplace, violence, demeaning behavior from admin? How much of that will end up in my pocket so I can afford healthcare?

    It's a start. But it's still a bandaid on a hemmorhage. To me (and I think many, many other nurses), this is like shutting the barn door after the horse has run away. When I hear someone in government or authority saying, "heck! There's a nursing shortage, and I'm gonna do something about it," well, all I really want to do is strangle someone! A shortage? No kidding, Einstein! :angryfire
    Last edit by Youda on Oct 7, '02
  14. by   whipping girl in 07
    All this money to educate new nurses, but there is no one to educate them.

    I graduated from nursing school almost a year ago. Most of my teachers informed me that I'd be making more than what they make in less than five years. With the exception of the full professors at my school, the nursing instructors ALL worked PRN at hospitals in the area. They were working nights, weekends, and summers. I realize they needed to keep up their skills so they could teach effectively, but working every weekend or every other weekend doesn't seem like just keeping up skills. The only ones who didn't work part-time jobs in addition to teaching were the ones who didn't need the money (they had highly paid husbands).

    I would love to teach someday, but I just can't see doing it for what I make now. I mean, when you work, you want to advance, make more money over the years, save for your retirement. How can you do that if you don't even get paid enough at a FULL-TIME job to keep your head above water?

    Besides, right now, the problem is not that there aren't enough nurses. The nurses are just not working, or they are working part-time/PRN because that's all they can handle!

    With the population aging, there probably will be a true nursing shortage in the future. The hospitals, government and ANA (along with other professional organizations) need to work together to solve the retention problem NOW, so that nurses will stay in the profession AND attract new nurses. As new as I am, I try to do everything I can to encourage the new nurses coming behind me so they'll stay in nursing. We need them.