Raia Calls for Action to Solve New York’s Nursing Shortage Crisis

May 14, 2008

As New York’s nursing shortage reaches crisis proportions and threatens the delivery of quality health care, Assemblyman Andrew Raia (R,I,C,WF-East Northport) joined his Assembly Minority colleagues to call for legislative action to address the shortfall by providing educational and financial incentives to attract and retain nurses.

Numerous health care advocacy groups, such as the Health Care Association of New York State (HANYS), have reported on New York’s shortage of nurses and the detrimental impact it has on patient care. A recent HANYS report stated 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.

“According to the Healthcare Association of New York State, 8.8 percent of registered nurse positions in New York were vacant in 2007, an increase of almost 2.5 percent from 2006,” said Raia. “A major factor behind the shortage is our nursing schools’ inability to admit qualified applicants due to capacity limitations. Our legislation would provide nursing recruitment and retention incentives, including scholarship and loan programs for nursing students to increase the number of talented, compassionate caregivers in our state.”

“Scholarships and loan forgiveness programs for nursing students are needed,” said Tina Gerardi, MS, RN, CAE and Chief Executive Officer of the New York State Nurses Association. “By supporting nursing students, the state would demonstrate its commitment to increasing the nursing workforce and affirm the importance of registered nurses in the health care system.” Gerardi also stressed the importance of improving workplace conditions to keep RNs in the workforce.

“Even in the midst of Berger-mandated reconfiguration, the long-term need for an aging population for the special skills of nurses is clear and apparent,” said Marilyn Stapleton, PhD, RN, Director, Ellis Hospital School of Nursing. “We support New York state’s efforts to encourage and support careers in nursing, and as a hospital with a school of nursing, we look forward to working with them to address this issue.”

“The health care system in New York State and across this country cannot and will not survive without a commitment to increasing the number of professionals who administer life-saving care,” said HANYS President Daniel Sisto. “The workforce shortage is not going away. In fact, statistics show us that it will almost certainly get alarmingly worse. We need policymakers to take effective action that opens the door to increased resources, training, and education so that more nurses and health care professionals can join the workforce.”

The legislation offered by the Assembly Minority Conference includes the following measures:

  • Assembly Bill A.4980-A (Assemblyman Jim Bacalles): 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 (Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava): 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 (Assemblyman Bob Barra): 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 (Assemblyman Bob Barra): 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 (Assemblyman Dave Townsend): 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.