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ADVANCE Perspective: Nurses

Nursing Education Quid Pro Quo

Published March 17, 2009 12:58 PM by Chuck Holt

If the root of the nursing shortage is not a lack of interest in the career but rather a dearth of qualified instructors, then making it more attractive to become a nurse educator by forgiving student loans for those pursuing higher education in nursing makes a lot of sense to me.

That's precisely the aim of the Nurses' Higher Education and Loan Repayment Act, which would establish a federal student loan repayment program for nurses who agree to teach full-time at an accredited school of nursing for at least 4 years in a 6-year period.

Nurses in the program would be eligible to receive a loan repayment of up to $40,000 to obtain a master's degree, the basic requirement to become a nurse educator, or up to $80,000 to obtain a doctorate degree in nursing.

The bill has received backing from nursing groups, including the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), and the Service Employees International Union, which counts 80,000 nurses among its 1 million healthcare worker members. 

The bipartisan legislation was introduced March 12 by U.S. Reps. Tom Latham (R-IA) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI). Click here to listen to an mp3 of Rep. Latham answer questions about the bill. To read the legislation in its entirety visit http://thomas.loc.gov/ and enter the bill number (H.R. 1460) into the search engine on the homepage.

Granted, one could argue - and I hope many of you will - whether serving as an instructor for only 4 years in a 6-year period is enough of a return on the U.S. taxpayer's investment of up to $80,000.

Conversely, one could easily argue - and I hope many of you will - that, if passed and signed into law by President Obama as part of his overall approach to healthcare reform, this legislation would enable some of the thousands of applicants being turned away from nursing schools each year to enroll in quality programs and ultimately shrink the staffing shortage.

It's not a quick fix, but a single, plausible, long-term solution to a problem that needs to be tackled on multiple fronts, says AACN CEO and executive director, Polly Bednash, PhD, RN, FAAN.  

"A significant barrier to addressing the nurse faculty shortage is enticing nurses with advanced degrees to pursue careers in academia when salaries in the practice setting are much higher," she says. "One way to compensate for these lower salaries and attract younger nurses into teaching roles is to relieve their educational debt."

How about you?

Chuck Holt is associate editor and Web editor at ADVANCE.

5 comments

I think people need to know that there isn't so much a "nursing shortage" in general, as they think. What there really is a shortage of is "EXPERIENCED NURSES"!!! Does anyone have any idea how many licensed new Graduate RNs there are out there deserate to find a job and can't find one for the life of them because hospitals won't even talk to them without 1-2 years experience? I invite anyone to take a look at any nursing website and read all the blogs on there from Graduate RNs who are left holding a nursing license that's as worthless as the paper it's written on! I'm sorry, I disagree. What the real problem is that's going on here nation wide is that there will never be enough internship positions to take on the growing number of new grads being produced. What's Washington's big suggestion to fix all? Oh, let's hire foreign nurses to fill the gaps!Hello? This would only FURTHER prevent and delay job opportunities for new grads here! Guess what? Are new grads not every bit as LICENSED as the next nurse? The only difference is the lack of opportunity being offered to new grads to get the required experience. Now, if someone in Congress wants to address the root cause of this "so-called" nursing shortage, then the government and hospitals need to collaborate with eachother and develop more opportunities and or further training, beyond passing NCLEX, for new grads. Isn't in healthcare's best interest as a whole to invest in it's future generation of nurses, since the big scare is losing the majority of the nursing force to retirement anyways? Wake up people!

Victoria, Graduate Nurse - RN March 20, 2009 7:08 PM
Keller TX

I author the residency waiver that allows the Colorado Department of Human Services the authority to recruit from out of state.  The waiver requires a huge amount of research.  Loan forgiveness is only a partial answer to the problem.  Universities need to be able to provide a permanent stipend above the Associate Professor level for Nurse Educators to the tune of about $35K per year--or put them in a complete separate classification with a salary in the mid to high $70K range.  A Masters-level RN might then be lured into Nurse Education.  Nursing School capacity must be increased and it will not happen without qualified staff.  There is also a significant infrastructure investment needed to accomodate increased capacity.

James, Human Services - Human Resources March 19, 2009 2:05 PM
Pueblo CO

I've been an RN for 16 yrs. & have just finally completed my BSN last May of '08 due to financial reasons. President Obama's stimulus healthcare reform package including the "loan repayment act" if passed is great & a long time coming!!. Nursing is a profound and rewarding profession. Wiithin it you will find some of the most compassionate, educated, & qualified team members working for a common goal; the well-being of their PATIENTS. And no matter what type of Nursing you may practice, if continuing your education to is a goal you should have the resources to do it.  Scholarships and interest free loans or even loan forgiveness programs should be an avenue.  And there should be NO RESTRICTIONS; whether you become a Nurse Educator, Nurse Researcher or even a Nurse Administrator.  Every Nurse should have equal opportunity when achieving a Master's, PHD or Doctorate in Nursing. I truly feel that if the criteria is met, then the money should be made available!!!.

Best of Luck to all.........

Debbie

Debra Ann, Cardio-Thoracic - Staff RN, Buffalo General Hospital March 18, 2009 11:43 PM
Buffalo NY

My only concern is that the focus is on educators and hospitalists. And, yes, we do need these areas addressed.  Where are all the rest of us?  For the last 5 years, I  have manged the Cancer, Hospice, and HIV/AIDS programs  for a DC Medicaid/HealthCare Alliance MCO and have spent my 23 year career in home and community health care.  We too are facing a huge shortage.  I hope that we will see all areas of expertise addressed as the moneys from the stimulus package are spent.

Judith Levine, Cancer, HIV/AIDS - Program Manager, Chartered Health Plan/DC HealthCare Alliance March 18, 2009 2:37 PM
Washington DC

The problem is getting the education and then not being able to get the forgiveness.  I am facing that issue now with my RN loans.  It is a huge problem.  I work underserved and can't afford to pay them but haven't been able to get the repayment after applying three years in a row - all while my overall debt grows.

Joyce March 18, 2009 1:21 PM

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