Oregon – Lawmakers from both parties, including one Democrat from Oregon, are working together on new laws to help increase the number of nursing teachers.
In the U.S. House, they’ve proposed the Nurse Faculty Shortage Reduction Act. This act would give $28.5 million each year for five years to nursing schools. The money is to keep and bring in more teachers. Right now, there aren’t enough nursing teachers in Oregon and other places. A report by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing showed that in 2021, almost 92,000 people who could have studied nursing were turned away because there weren’t enough teachers and other problems.
Oregon has 21 nursing schools
In Oregon, there are 21 schools where you can study nursing at the associate’s or bachelor’s level. A study by the Oregon Longitudinal Data Collaborative, a group that researches education, found out that in 2020, only four of these schools could take more than half of the people who qualified.
“Current capacity is not meeting the needs of Oregon’s prospective qualified nursing students,” it said.
This lack of teaching capacity has led to not having enough nurses. The Oregon Board of Nursing says there are over 84,000 registered nurses and more than 6,000 licensed practical nurses in the state, but not all are working. They think Oregon could use about 21,600 more registered nurses to take care of patients.
“Without more nurse faculty, we won’t be able to educate enough nurses to provide the care Oregonians need,” said Kevin Mealy, a spokesman for the Oregon Nurses Association.
Mealy explains that it’s hard to find teachers for nursing. Only about 15% of nurses have the master’s degree needed to teach. Plus, teaching pays a lot less than working in a hospital or health care.
“It’s extremely difficult to convince nurses to spend years getting an advanced degree, and going deeper into student debt, in order to make much less than they’re making now,” Mealy said. “Nearly every nurse educator I know has to work a second job as an on-call nurse. Unless you’re retired, you can’t afford to teach full-time.”
In the whole country, a highly qualified nurse earns around $120,000 a year. But a nursing teacher with a master’s degree makes about $87,000. This is from a report about the new law proposal.
The new law would let nursing schools like the University of Portland, George Fox University in Newberg, and Oregon Health & Science University in Portland apply for financial help. Schools that focus on helping people in need and hiring teachers from diverse backgrounds would get priority.
The Oregon Nurses Association, the American Nurses Association, and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing all support this law. A similar law was also proposed in the U.S. Senate by Dick Durbin from Illinois and Lisa Murkowski from Alaska.
A Democrat who represents Oregon, U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, supports the bill
In the House, Suzanne Bonamici, a Democrat from Oregon, is supporting the new bill. She represents Oregon’s 1st District and is the co-chair of the Congressional Nursing Caucus with David Joyce, a Republican from Ohio. They, along with Republican Jennifer Kiggans from Virginia and Democrat Lauren Underwood from Illinois, introduced this bill. Kiggans and Underwood used to be nurses.
Bonamici mentioned that nursing is a vital job that saves and changes lives. However, Oregon and many other states are short on nurses. She pointed out that there are lots of qualified people who want to become nurses, but there aren’t enough teachers in nursing schools to train them.
Bonamici has been actively collaborating with Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) regarding this bill. Additionally, representatives from Portland State University and George Fox University participated in a recent meeting to discuss this matter, as informed by her spokesperson, Natalie Crofts.
The Hospital Association of Oregon, which represents all hospitals in the state, is in favor of this legislation.
“The bill would build on our package of workforce investments from the 2023 Oregon Legislature, a collaborative effort with labor and other stakeholders that passed with bipartisan support,” Goodman said.
Last year, Oregon legislators proposed various laws to strengthen the nursing workforce and faculty. One of these, House Bill 3396, was passed and included plans to allocate $5 million to enhance nursing faculty, especially at OHSU and community colleges. Although Governor Tina Kotek signed the bill in July, the funds have not yet been implemented. Erica Heartquist from the Oregon Health Authority noted a delay in the contract but didn’t give further details.
The bill also allocated $15 million for clinical training in hospitals and health care facilities, which nursing students need for their degrees, and $5 million for on-the-job training for other health care workers.
In a separate initiative, OHSU received almost $4 million from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration in 2022 to establish an academy of nursing. The goal is to increase the number of nursing faculty and clinical mentors. The academy provides scholarships to nurses, covering most of their tuition, and aims to increase graduate numbers by 30% by 2030.