Economic Stimulus Funding Provides Millions for Nursing Education and Jobs

    • March 24, 2009

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, President Barack Obama’s stimulus package aimed at helping restore the American economy to sound footing, includes a major boost for nursing education, as well as significant funding that will create jobs for nurses.

The $787 billion law includes $500 million for health professions training, including:

  • $300 million for the National Health Service Corps, which works to ensure adequate medical care in underserved areas by funding nurse practitioners, certified nurse-midwives, physicians, dentists and other health care professionals, and
  • $200 million to be divided among the federal Nursing Workforce Development Programs, which provide grants for advanced education nursing, workforce diversity, nurse education and retention, help with education loans, and the federal Health Professions Training Program, which provides grants and contracts to educational institutions and grants and loans to students.

In addition, the bill provides:

  • $7.4 billion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to divide among its Institutes, including the National Institute of Nursing Research, as well as various NIH Centers and its Common Fund, which funds cross-disciplinary research.

Other funds from the stimulus bill will help create jobs for nurses already in practice.  Barely two weeks after the president signed the law, more than $150 million began flowing to support community health centers and other clinics providing care to underserved communities around the nation. In Lubbock, Texas, for example, a $1 million grant is on its way to the Texas Tech University School of Nursing to support its nonprofit community clinic, the Larry Combest Community Health and Wellness Center.  “The Combest Center will probably be able to see double the amount of patients it has seen before and could expand its hours,” said Alexia Green, R.N., Ph.D., F.A.A.N., dean of the School of Nursing. “That's really important to people in East Lubbock who are underserved already and largely uninsured.”

In Indiana, the Purdue University School of Nursing was awarded a share of a $2.6 million grant to help support its network of local clinics serving residents who might not otherwise receive care. The clinic’s team of nurse practitioners provides primary care to approximately 10,000 patients a year. The grant will support expansion.

Nursing leaders applauded passage of the stimulus bill. “In their work to stimulate the U.S. economy, federal legislators recognized the connection between funding health professions education and preparing a workforce large enough to meet the nation's healthcare needs,” said American Association of Colleges of Nursing President Fay Raines, Ph.D., R.N. “Nurse educators are grateful for this infusion of funding, which will help nursing schools battle the financial challenges they are currently facing.”

“The nursing community truly came together as a strong voice to save funding for nursing education,” said Rep. Lois Capps, R.N. (D-CA). “I am proud to have helped my fellow nurses achieve this goal and strengthen the nursing workforce so that all Americans will benefit from the quality health care nurses provide.”

Brenda Cleary and Susan Reinhard of the Center to Champion Nursing in America, a joint initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, AARP and the AARP Foundation, issued an email alert to the supporters commending “the efforts of our AARP colleagues for their work to protect funding for nurse education. Additionally, we applaud the extraordinary commitment and unity exhibited by the nursing community…. The new funding demonstrates a well-targeted investment in capacity expansion at our nursing schools and paves the way to fill many thousands of job openings within the next one to three years. Moreover, it represents a down-payment on the health care workforce of the future.”

In a related development, the president followed up the stimulus bill with an outline of his annual federal budget request.  The proposal calls for $87 million in the coming year for the creation of a national Nurse Home Visitation Program that would “provide home visits by trained nurses to first-time low-income mothers and mothers-to be.”