Group urges Congress to approve funding for nurse programs to alleviate shortage

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Citing the country's struggle with a burgeoning shortage of nurses that "threatens the very fabric of our health and long-term care system," 11 healthcare organizations are pushing members of Congress to approve $20 million in FY 2005 funding to increase in nursing workforce development programs.

In particular, the group, which includes the American Nurses Association and the American Organization of Nurse Executives, asks in a Nov. 12 letter for support of $162 million in FY 2005 funding for Title VIII of the Public Health Service Act.

In 2002, Congress passed the Nurse Reinvestment Act, which expanded and improved the nursing workforce development programs administered by the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration under Title VIII. The Nurse Reinvestment Act "holds the promise of attracting more people into the nursing profession, increasing nurse education capacity, and encouraging practicing nurses to remain in the profession," the group wrote in its letter to Congress. "However, these programs cannot properly address the growing shortage without significant new appropriations."

For example, one program the Nurse Reinvestment Act created was the national nurse corps. This program provides loan repayments and scholarships to RNs and nursing students who agree to work full-time for at least two years in a health care or long-term care facility deemed to have a critical shortage of nurses. In 2003, due to lack of funding, HRSA turned away 92% of the nurses willing to alleviate the shortage.  In fact, only 602 loan repayments of 8,321 nurse applicants were approved, and 94 scholarships were awarded, while 4,512 nursing students applied for the scholarship, according to the group's letter.