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Bill proposes faculty grants as way to ease nursing shortage

January 9, 2018

With a shortage of nurses looming in Indiana, some lawmakers want to increase the number of nursing faculty in the state by offering grants to repay part of their college loans.

More than two dozen Indiana colleges offer nursing programs, but many have faculty shortages. Last year, Indiana colleges turned away more than 700 qualified applicants for undergraduate nursing studies, primarily due to faculty shortages, said Blayne Miley, director of policy and advocacy for the Indiana State Nurses Association.

“The shortage of nursing faculty is the true bottleneck in our nursing pipeline,” Miley said.

Senate Bill 28 is designed to attract and retain nursing faculty by offering grants of up to $5,000 a year, with a lifetime maximum of $25,000 to eligible nursing faculty.

Most nurse faculty positions require a master’s degree to teach undergraduates and a doctorate to teach graduate students. The grants are designed to help repay huge loans that nursing faculty amass over years of graduate school.

To be eligible for grants, an applicant must have lived in Indiana for at least a year, be a registered nurse, be enrolled in a graduate degree program for qualification as a nursing faculty member or an adjunct clinical faculty member. The grant program would be funded using 10 percent of the state’s nursing licensure fees.

In recent years, hospitals, clinics, home health agencies and other health providers have been scrambling to fill open nursing jobs, offering bonuses to new hires, setting up nursing residency programs, and trying to keep experienced nurses as long as possible.

Registered nurses are the No. 1 job in demand across the state, according to the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, with hundreds of open jobs and projected annual growth of 17 percent. The average salary for a registered nurse is $57,370.

The shortage is expected to get more severe in coming years, as more nurses age into retirement, Miley said.

The bill’s primary author, Sen. Vaneta Becker, R-Evansville, did not return several calls to IBJ. The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Health and Provider Services.

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