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Nurse Education

Government Commits Funding to Grow U.S. Nursing Workforce

By Jonathan Springston, Editor, Relias Media

The Department of Health and Human Services has announced $100 million in funding to grow the U.S. nursing workforce in the face of ongoing staffing shortages.

These funds will be used to hire more nurse educators, train more nurses (especially to serve in primary care, mental health, and maternal health), and to help current licensed nurses become registered nurses.

The American Nurses Association (ANA) said it is “ready to partner and collaborate” with stakeholders to make the best use of this funding.

“There isn’t a price tag that you can put on the clinical expertise, sincere humanity, and vast value that nurses bring to the health and education of their patients and our communities,” said ANA President Jennifer Mensik Kennedy, PhD, MBA, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN. “We are pleased with this action, but we will remain firm in urging Congress to address chronic systemic challenges that nurses are facing every day. Workplace violence, burnout, low wages, and the national nurse staffing crisis still demand immediate solutions.”

ANA is rallying support for the Improving Care and Access to Nurses (ICAN) Act, legislation introduced in Congress earlier this year. ANA believes ICAN “will remove administrative, practice, and other barriers” that stand in the way of advanced practice registered nurses from fully realizing their education and training.

The Biden administration is considering implementing a rule for minimum staffing standards within U.S. nursing homes. However, it will be hard to meet such standards if there are not enough healthcare workers to fill those positions. On July 11, the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) sent a letter to the White House urging the administration to reconsider this idea, calling it "a disaster" for senior care.

On July 24, AHCA/NCAL sent another letter reiterating its stance against minimum staffing while offering alternatives. The group wants to focus on improving the quality of care, part of which calls for publicly disclosing customer satisfaction ratings. This could create a cycle of facilities competing to provide the best service, which in turn could attract top talent and more customers.

Still, one of the four AHCA/NCAL proposals revolves around growing the long-term care workforce, but through a multiphase strategy. In the short term, the groups believe the Biden administration could offer educational loan forgiveness opportunities; provide funding for affordable housing, down payments, and childcare; and open immigration pathways to attract qualified nurses to the United States.

“We understand that the original intent of proposing additional federal staffing requirements is to enhance care — nursing home providers share in this noble cause. However, given the current and forthcoming caregiver shortage, we do not believe a federal staffing mandate will be feasible, nor will it yield the intended outcome of improving care,” AHCA/NCAL wrote. “COVID-19 was an inflection point for our profession, and we believe in order to learn from this international tragedy, bold steps must be taken to improve the long-term care system. However, meaningful change will not happen through unrealistic requirements and enforcement, but through collaboration and innovation.”

More educational resources for long-term care professionals are available here, and more resources for all nurses are available here.