Feds Set Aside $45 Million to Strengthen Nursing

Jan 13, 2014, 9:00 AM

The federal government announced late last year it would deliver $55.5 million in fiscal 2013 to programs designed to strengthen, diversify, and grow the health care workforce.

The bulk of the funds—82 percent, or $45.4 million—are targeted at nurses, the largest segment of the health care workforce.

The announcement came as welcome news to supporters of a national campaign backed by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and AARP that is working to transform the nursing profession to improve health and health care.

Many of the grants support the Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action’s call for a more highly educated and more diverse nursing workforce and for more interprofessional collaboration among nurses and other health care professionals, according to Winifred Quinn, PhD, co-director of the Center to Champion Nursing in America, an initiative of AARP, the AARP Foundation, and RWJF.

“These grants and the many training programs they support have a real impact by helping to create innovative care delivery models and improving access to high-quality care,” said Kathleen Sebelius, head of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in making the announcement.  

The awards include:

  • $22.1 million for low-interest loans and loan cancellation programs for nurses who are preparing to become faculty. The grants will help grow the number of nurse faculty and curb a looming shortage of nurses.
  • $9.2 million to help registered nurses advance their education so they can become nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, and other advanced practice professionals. A more highly educated nursing workforce will better enable nurses to meet the demands of an increasing, and increasingly complex, patient population.
  • $6.7 million for collaborative models of care that are designed to foster interprofessional practice among nurses and other health professionals and to develop and implement innovative practice models for providing care.
  • $5.2 million to expand educational opportunities for nursing students from disadvantaged backgrounds, including racial and ethnic minorities. The grants are intended to diversify the nation’s nursing workforce so that it better reflects the population it serves.
  • $2.2 million for traineeships for nurse anesthetists to pursue master’s or doctoral degrees.

Remaining funds will support workforce development in fields including medicine, behavioral health, public health, dentistry, and health workforce research.

The grants are managed by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and were authorized in 2010 as part of the Affordable Care Act.

“These grants cover a wide spectrum of health workforce needs,” said HRSA Administrator Mary K. Wakefield, PhD, RN.  “From diversity to dentistry—all are critical to achieving a skilled workforce now and in the future.”

Read a news release about the grants.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Human Capital Blog. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors.