Feb. 28, 2007 — To a crowd of gathered University students, faculty, administrators, state dignitaries and friends at a press conference at the University of Virginia School of Nursing this afternoon, Virginia Governor Timothy Kaine announced funding and initiatives to address the low number of practicing nurses in Virginia and the shortage of nursing faculty.
In her opening remarks, Nursing School Dean Jeanette Lancaster said, “At the present time our American hospitals are facing a shortage of nurses of 115,000 registered nurses. … Regrettably unless we do something dramatic in the commonwealth we're not going to be able to turn that situation around, … On any given day in 2012, unless we do something, only two out of every three of you will be able to have a nurse to take care of you when you need one. So that's why we are so excited today that we are looking at ways in our commonwealth to do something about it.”
Nursing is critical to my goal of improving health care in Virginia, Kaine said. “The role of a nurse has never been a narrow role, it’s always been a broad role. But in the last generation it has gotten even broader in terms of what nurses are able to do in the provision of health care and that's a good thing. It's a tribute to good training. It's a tribute to good people going into the profession.”
The number of nursing school applicants are increasing across the state, yet there are not enough faculty to meet the demand. This is due in part to the competition for nurses in the private sector, who often receive higher salaries.
“It's also due to the lack of facilities and faculty to train them. This is an important role for government to step up and take a leadership role,” Kaine said.
To retain highly qualified nursing faculty in the commonwealth and to attract other nurses — retired, practicing or new graduates —– to pursue a career in academia and to improve the capacity within the commonwealth to train more nurses, Kaine announced a 10 percent add-on salary increase (in addition to the normal salary increase for state employees) to nursing faculty state-wide in his budget amendments, which has passed both the House and the Senate.
In addition, he worked with the General Assembly to secure $200,000 to fund nursing scholarships for students to pursue master's degrees. These scholarship programs are designed to make sure we are always replenishing the ranks of great nursing educators we lose to attrition and other nursing career opportunities, he said.
These initiatives, coupled the governor's recent creation of the Healthcare Reform Commission, are first steps in addressing helping the state become a healthier state, Kaine said. The commission is looking at the big-picture issues — healthcare workforce, long term care, what we can do to have people live healthy and healthcare quality and pricing information for consumers. The commission’s Healthcare Workforce Taskforce has been working on creative and innovative solutions including technology strategies for simulation and distance learning. Kaine visited the U.Va. School of Nursing's state-of-the-art simulation lab for a hands-on, interactive demonstration using SimMan and SimBaby mannequins prior to his announcement today.
Kaine also announced state funding for a creative strategy developed by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia in conjunction with the Healthcare Workforce Taskforce, to which U.Va. Nursing School Dean Jeanette Lancaster was recently appointed. Through this initiative, the University of Virginia and Northern Virginia Community College each have been awarded $750,000. The U.Va. School of Nursing is using the funding to develop a faculty loan forgiveness program, providing loan assistance up to $25,000 per year to graduate nursing faculty who are accepted to or enrolled in a doctoral nursing program in the state. The loans will be forgiven if the recipient is employed as a faculty member at a nursing school in Virginia. They will be required to give two years of service as a faculty member for each year they receive a loan.
Northern Virginia Community College is using its funding to partner with NovaHealthForce to create a public/private partnership intended to maximize the number of newly licensed nurses and increase the nursing faculty in northern Virginia. The funds will be divided among five higher education institutions in the northern Virginia area. Some will use the funding to expand faculty, others to increase the number of nursing candidates at all levels of study and to provide additional financial assistance to students.
These types of innovative solutions along with faculty salary increases will help us to decrease the nursing shortage felt across the commonwealth, Kaine said.
“I think are entering an era where people now really understand the value of the profession,” he said.
University Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Leonard W. Sandridge praised Kaine’s efforts to improve health care in Virginia. “Governor Kaine has done everything that he possibly could in conjunction with the general assembly to make certain that we have the resources and the salaries to pay faculty so that we can train nurses; so that we have scholarships so that students can come to the University of Virginia, and for that we are very, very grateful.”