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Senate committee approves measure to boost nursing ranks

By Nancy Royden, LRC

Frankfort, KY - A bill that stands to boost the number of critically needed nurses in Kentucky received approval Wednesday from the Senate Health and Welfare Committee.

Sen. Robby Mills, R-Henderson, the bill's primary sponsor, said the measure would improve the process for out-of-state and foreign-trained nurses to practice in Kentucky without compromising standards of patient care. It would also improve student access to nursing programs and update the Kentucky Board of Nursing membership requirements to give nurses more of a voice, he said.


Senate Bill 10 is a culmination of quite a bit of work over the interim and into the session, Mills told the committee. It was approved with a 10-0 vote.

Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, is also sponsoring the bill. He said the nursing shortage has been an ongoing issue dating back to around 2013 and that some estimates show the gap could be as high as 10,000 to 14,000 nurses.

Stivers said it has become more exacerbated and apparent during the last couple of years with COVID-19. When elective procedures were halted during the pandemic, some nurses were laid off. Some of them went to other states to work or became travel nurses, he said.

"It just created a bigger and bigger problem," Stivers said. "But this is not just related to hospitals, it's related to long-term health care facilities and anybody else who relies on nursing."

Instead of using predetermined numbers for admission to nursing programs or a temporary executive order, Stivers said the nursing shortage problem should be handled differently.

However, it's important to have criteria so the public would know that when nurses graduate and start to work in hospitals, they're qualified to do so, he added.

"The other thing we looked at is how we treat nurses who come from other jurisdictions to make sure we create the opportunity - that it is as quick and seamless as possible," he said.

Those working on the bill have consulted with various schools and institutions, the hospital association and nursing board staff, according to Wednesday's testimony.

Nancy Galvagni, president of the Kentucky Hospital Association, spoke on behalf of the bill.

She said many nurses have left their jobs at hospitals and other facilities to become travel nurses. Paying for travel nurses can be extremely expensive for medical facilities because they can command pay at a national rate, rather than cheaper rates paid in some areas.

Delanor Manson, Chief Executive Officer of the Kentucky Nurses Association and other nursing groups, said she represents thousands of nurses in her role. She suggested retention bonuses for nurses who stay in their communities to work instead of becoming travel nurses. She also said her organization is prepared to offer assistance.

Manson cited a five-point plan from the association that includes $100 million in proposals to address the issue. She said SB 10 is a good start but should go further.

Committee member Sen. Denise Harper Angel, D-Louisville, also suggested retention funds would help retain nurses and called the bill an excellent start.

"I'd like to thank the sponsors for bringing this legislation to address this critical need. I particularly appreciate the fact, that of this committee sub, that you worked with various entities to improve the bill," she said.


This story was posted on 2022-02-24 08:53:25
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