Nurse Training

Congress approved a proposal by Senator Bernie Sanders to expand nurse training programs. Sanders, a member of the Senate education committee, authored a provision in the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 that will address the nursing shortage by authorizing $3,000 for each additional student that colleges enroll in nursing programs. The Sanders measure was folded into the first major overhaul in a decade of the law governing federal aid to higher education. Congress approved the bill on

Congress approved a proposal by Senator Bernie Sanders to expand nurse training programs. Sanders, a member of the Senate education committee, authored a provision in the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 that will address the nursing shortage by authorizing $3,000 for each additional student that colleges enroll in nursing programs. The Sanders measure was folded into the first major overhaul in a decade of the law governing federal aid to higher education. Congress approved the bill on July 31 and sent it to the White House. President Bush is expected to sign the bill by August 15, when the current higher education law expires.

"In the midst of the enormous problems our country is now facing with high energy costs, foreclosures, bank failures, global warming, etc., it is imperative that we not push aside another major crisis, which in many ways is getting worse, and that is the health care crisis," Sanders said at the Burlington press conference.

"Vermonters will remember that a number of years ago, after talking with nurses and medical professionals across the state, I spoke out about the major nursing shortage in the United States, one that all the experts say will grow progressively worse," he added.

"According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 1.2 million new and replacement nurses will be needed by 2014. Yet we are nowhere close to educating enough nurses to meet this need, which is why the U.S. Department of Health foresees a shortage of over one million nurses by the year 2020.

"Even with such an enormous need for nurses, U.S. nursing schools turned away over 41,000 qualified applicants from in 2005 because they do not have the resources to train more nurses. If community college and associate degree nursing programs are included in these numbers, 150,000 well-qualified applicants are turned away each year from nursing programs.

"I am happy to announce today that the higher education act passed last week includes a major provision that I introduced, which enables our colleges to significantly increase the number of nurses they train. I introduced this program in the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, of which I am a member. The program provides extra capacity for nursing students in colleges in a very simple, efficient and cost-effective way. In the committee it was strongly supported by Chairman Ted Kennedy and by Senator Barbara Mikulski, and from our early deliberations it was included as one of the major new programs in the reauthorization of the higher education law. In the House, Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy of New York, a nurse by profession, led a similar effort there.

"This nursing provision provides colleges, community colleges and universities a grant for each additional student their nursing programs enroll over their previous average enrollment. The nursing programs would receive a $3000 grant for each additional student they admit, money which will help pay for the increased costs required to teach and train that student.

"One of the goals is to graduate more advanced degree nurses, so that we can begin to have the necessary faculty we desperately need if we are to train more nurses in the next decade. My hope is that this provision will result in an additional 10,000 or more students each year at a modest cost. This is an authorization bill, for the first time in many years supporting the expansion of nursing programs. The appropriations process will begin as soon as the new Congress convenes in January.

"What will our nation get for these $3000 grants? Many of the qualified students who are now denied admission to nursing schools would be able to become nurses, and with full funding the nation would benefit with well over 10,000 additional nurses each year, year after year. Since some of the funding is targeted at graduate training, the supply of nursing professors, mentors and teachers would be greatly increased, so that nursing schools could continue to expand their enrollment opportunities.

"Not only is nursing an honorable and important profession, but that nursing jobs pay good wages, something our economy very much needs.

"With an aging population, with thousands of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan in need of continuing medical care, and with a nursing shortage looming, we need to act boldly. The new program I introduced, and which has been passed by the Congress and which will next week be signed into law by the president, will provide many new nurses for only a modest outlay of federal funds. Through this program we are on the verge of successfully addressing the nursing shortage that lies ahead," the senator concluded.