States Propose Legislation To Increase Nursing Educators

By Staff
April 27, 2009

Rhode Island and Texas are creating new laws which aim to boost the number of educators in nursing schools.

The Providence Journal reports that Rhode Island lawmakers are considering a proposal that would grant nursing instructors a $3,500 tax credit, hoping that such a law will encourage more nurses to teach. As a result, they expect that more wait-listed nursing school applicants would be admitted. Currently, nurses who teach at the state's nursing schools earn significantly less than nurses who work in private-sector jobs.

"Rhode Island faces a projected shortage of more than 1,800 registered nurses by next year and a further projected shortage of 6,500 registered nurses by the year 2020," remarked Sen. James Doyle II of Pawtucket, who was quoted by NBC 10.

Despite the shortage, many Rhode Island nursing graduates are having difficulty finding work. Ruth Ricciarelli, executive director of the Center for Health Professions at the Hospital Association of Rhode Island, told The Journal that since the recession has caused many to work longer hours or put off retirement, the nursing shortage isn't obvious. Yet experts say that will change.

"You're going to see a rapid exit of nurses once the economy turns," noted Donna Policastro, executive director of the Rhode Island State Nurses Association, who predicted that aging nurses will retire and not enough nurses will be around to replace them.

In Texas, The Houston Chronicle [from an article originally located at] reports that the state House tentatively approved a measure that will increase incentives to nursing schools to help hire more faculty and graduate more nurses. The state faces an estimated shortage of 22,000 nurses, which is expected to increase to 70,000 by 2020.

Supporters of the bill say that nursing schools need more teachers in order to increase graduates. Rep. Donna Howard noted that a lack of faculty caused Texas nursing schools to refuse admission to 8,000 qualified applicants in 2008.

Other proposed bills in Texas aim to retain nurses by creating a better work environment. A spokesperson for the National Nurses Organizing Committee, a nurses' union group, said that more nurses would work if hospitals were required to maintain reasonable staffing ratios. Such a measure would ensure that nurses would not be understaffed and overworked.

The demand for nursing educators is being felt in other states as well. South Carolina's The State reports that nursing schools are being forced to turn away applicants because of a lack of instructors.

"Unless we have the faculty to teach," noted Peggy Hewlett, dean of the nursing program at the University of South Carolina, "we cannot increase our student population."

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