If you have had the unfortunate need to deal with the health care system in the past year, there is no doubt that you have noticed the lack of nurses throughout the health care industry. Each year more and more nurses retire or leave the nursing profession while the number of young people entering the field dwindles.
When the current nursing shortage is added on to increasing health care costs such as skyrocketing prescription drug costs and rising health care premiums, it becomes clear that the health care industry in New York is at a crossroads, which could determine the future of patient care.
Numerous health care advocacy groups, such as the Health Care Association of New York State (HANYS), have reported 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.
For these reasons, and more, my colleagues and I have decided to work together and put out a serious reform package of legislation aimed at creating common sense solutions to the looming nursing shortage. Our bills included measures that would:
- Establish the New York State nursing recruitment incentive and retention program and provide for the reimbursement of student loans if a person is a registered and licensed nurse;
- 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;
- Establish 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;
- Create 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; and
- Provide 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.
When all is said and done, the goal is to provide the best possible care for those who need it in the most efficient and cost effective way. I believe that by being proactive the legislature can produce change and help to save the health care industry in New York from disaster by attracting and retaining the best people possible to become students of nursing.