Penn Nursing Researchers: Nursing Needs a Bailout, Federal Scholarships Needed to Fix the Nursing Shortage

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Media Contact:Joy McIntyre | joymc@nursing.upenn.edu | 215-898-5074
Media Contact:Jill DiSanto-Haines | jdisanto@upenn.edu | 215-898-4820June 17, 2009

PHILADELPHIA — Researchers from the Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing say having enough nurses to meet a national shortage is a “mathematical improbability” unless nursing schools admit more students through federal financial support in a potential bailout, according to an article in today’s issue of Health Affairs.

The Penn Nursing researchers argue that, under current economic conditions, it is shortsighted to allow highly sought-after nursing jobs to go vacant while scores of prospective nursing students are turned away.

The nation is projected to face a shortage of 500,000 nurses by 2025.

The authors call for new public subsidies for nursing education to be targeted to baccalaureate and graduate education for nurses.

“We are proposing increased federal funding under Title VIII and through Medicare to support nursing education so we have more nurses at the hospital bedside,” said Linda Aiken, Penn Nursing professor and lead author of the study. Administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration, Title VIII of the Public Health Service Act provides funding for nursing workforce-development programs.

The greatest national needs are for nurses with the qualifications to be teachers, advance-practice nurses, such as nurse practitioners, and leaders in complex health-care organizations, according to the researchers.

“Nursing is one of the most popular choices for college students today, but thousands of prospective students are waiting for admission because of capacity limitations resulting from faculty shortages and undergraduate enrollment caps imposed by financially strapped colleges and universities, ” Aiken said.

Fewer nurses who are originally educated with associate degrees go on to achieve master’s or Ph.D. degrees, exacerbating the shortage of nurses who can be faculty and educate the next generation of nurses.

“Federal and state funding for nursing education is essential to produce more nursing faculty and to support expanded undergraduate nursing student enrollments,” Aiken said. “With targeted public investments in expanding nursing-school enrollments, we can take advantage of historically high interest in nursing as a career to solve the nation’s nursing shortage well into the future.”

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