State Experts Share Effective Strategies to Stem Nursing Shortage

    • February 18, 2009

With the nation facing an unprecedented nursing shortage that increases costs and threatens the health care of millions, the Center to Champion Nursing in America convened the 2009 Nursing Education Capacity Summit in Baltimore February 4-5. The Summit brought together 18 state teams that shared best practices to expand nursing education with teams from other states that are in earlier stages of this work.

Already there are approximately 116,000 unfilled nursing jobs in America’s hospitals and more than 25,000 unfilled nursing jobs in our nation’s nursing homes.  Yet qualified students are being turned away from nursing schools every year because of lack of capacity caused, in part, by inadequate funds to hire enough faculty to teach students interested in going into nursing.

A joint initiative of AARP, the AARP Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Center to Champion Nursing in America (CCNA) is working to address this problem. CCNA sponsored the Summit in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration and the U.S. Department of Labor.

“We know having enough qualified nurses is critical to delivering high quality, cost-effective health care, especially as Boomers age and experience more complex health conditions,” said Susan C. Reinhard, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N.,senior vice president of the AARP Public Policy Institute and chief strategist for CCNA. “The strategies these state teams are implementing are key to reversing the shortage.”

CCNA’s state teams are working to foster action in four key areas: strategic partnerships and resource alignment, policy and regulation, increasing faculty capacity and diversity, and education redesign. They have been advocating for policy changes and building broad-based partnerships to increase nursing school enrollment and bring more nurses into the workforce. For example:

  • The Alabama team, with the AARP Alabama state office playing a critical role, forged a private-public partnership between the Alabama Hospital Association and the state’s universities and community colleges for the purchase of a statewide online clinical placement system for nursing students.
  • The Massachusetts team successfully petitioned the state Legislature, in a tight budget year, to allocate $2 million to the Department of Higher Education for nursing initiatives. The money is being used to leverage private funding matches.
  • The Michigan team received an additional $10 million from the state for workforce development through the Michigan Nursing Corps.
  • The Texas team increased partnerships among nursing and other health professions’ education programs to implement innovations in education redesign, such as shared simulation laboratories and shared faculty resources, using tobacco funds allocated through the Texas Coordinating Board for Higher Education.

“We have to make things happen,” Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Senior Adviser for Nursing Susan Hassmiller, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N., said at the Summit. “The patients in this country need us. It’s about providing higher quality care in this country. Some of the greatest solutions have come when this country has been in crisis.”

For more information on the 2009 Nursing Education Capacity Summit, please visit the Center to Champion Nursing in America’s Web site,