Highlighting the fact that nursing is a “noble and honorable profession,” Assemblyman Bill Reilich (R,C,I-Greece) today stood at a press conference in Albany to present a plan that would provide educational and financial incentives to attract and retain nurses in New York state.
“Nurses are the backbone of our health care industry. They provide comfort and care to patients while helping ease their transition from sickness to health – even it means working overtime and additional days. Their dedication to our communities is unwavering,” said Reilich. “That is why it is important that we invest in the future of the nursing industry. The plan I presented today provides incentives to young professionals to pursue a career in nursing while encouraging experienced nurses to stay in the field.”
Fears that a nursing shortage may have disastrous effects on our health care industry prompted creation of Reilich’s plan. According to health care advocacy groups such as the Health Care Association of New York State (HANYS), a report they released indicated that four out of five hospitals in the state are facing a nursing shortage. The report also referenced a federal finding that New York could experience a shortage of approximately 37,000 nurses by 2015.
There is also great concern that a growing population of seniors may outpace the number of nurses available. Between 1998 and 2000, the population of individuals aged 65 and older grew 25 percent, whereas job vacancy rates for nurses in the last year alone grew from 6.38 percent in 2006 to 8.8 percent in 2008.
The plan introduced by Reilich and his Assembly Minority Conference colleagues include the following bills:
- Assembly Bill A.4980-A: Enacts the “New York State Nursing Shortage Correction Act.” Establishes the New York State Nursing Recruitment Incentive and Retention Program and provides for the reimbursement of student loans if a person is a registered and licensed nurse. Directs that SUNY and CUNY shall pay for a person’s education if such person signs a contract stating that he or she shall work in New York state as a registered nurse;
- Assembly Bill A.3001-A: Establishes the “Empire State Professional Nursing Scholarship Program” to provide financial support to applicants to enter or continue in registered nurse educational programs and who agree to deliver nursing care in a specialty setting or designated region of New York having a shortage of nurses or to teach nursing students;
- Assembly Bill A.4757:Establishes the “Regents Nursing Professional’s Loan Forgiveness Program” for applicants who agree to engage in employment as nurses in hospitals, nursing homes and hospice centers;
- Assembly Bill A.4158: Creates a baccalaureate and associate nursing assistance program within the Department of Health to provide loans to persons in pursuit of nursing degrees at a college or university in the state. Provides that nurses receiving loans will be obligated for one year of service as nurses in New York for each year assistance was received; and
- Assembly Bill A.5221: Provides for the preservation of a claimant’s eligibility for unemployment insurance benefits while the claimant is studying to become a certified teacher or a registered professional nurse in a training program that does not take more than 48 months to complete.
“With prescription drug prices as high as they are and the number of uninsured New Yorkers growing, a nursing shortage puts an added strain on our state’s health care system that we cannot afford to ignore,” said Reilich. “My plan would help alleviate the nursing shortage crisis and give nurses the tools and resources they need to provide the best possible care for patients.”