- The HHS will award multiple awards together totaling more than $100 million to help train and grow the nurse workforce, Secretary Xavier Becerra and Health Resources and Services Administration head Carole Johnson told reporters on a call Thursday.
- The department also announced five initiatives focused on supporting a “career ladder” for nurses and removing “bottlenecks in nursing training,” Johnson said.
- Stakeholders say that increasing capacity in education programs is a critical component to addressing the ongoing nationwide nursing shortage. Currently, qualified applicants may be denied admission due to resource constraints, including a lack of educators or space in clinical settings, Becerra said on a press call.
The initiative announced today is part of an ongoing effort to grow the nursing workforce and should be considered a starting point in The HHS and Biden administration’s commitment to developing the country’s health workforce, according to Johnson.
Some of the awards aim to remove financial barrers for pursuing healthcare education by providing tuition assistance, child support, or partial educational loan forgiveness to qualifying awardees. Other awards offer more intensive training opportunities for registered nurses, including a nurse practitioner residency program, that is similar to the model used to train physicians, and a nurse anesthetist traineeship.
The investment was the result of receiving “marching orders directly from President Biden” to address the nursing shortage, Becerra told reporters.
Demand for registered nurses and nurse practitioners has reached critical levels after the COVID-19 pandemic pushed caregivers to leave the workforce. Attrition escalated to such a level that the American Nurses Association urged the HHS to declare the nursing shortage a national crisis in 2021.
A shortage of nursing teaching faculty is contributing to the crisis, Becerra said. He cited complaints from deans at institutions like the University of Nevada and Portland State University, who told the agency secretary that they didn’t have enough faculty members to teach potential students, and, as a result, had to turn away possible applicants.
“It's tough to lure an experienced, licensed practitioner to teach because they lose so much income,” Becerra said.
Other nursing programs experience similar constraints. More than 91,000 qualified applications were rejected from nursing programs in 2021, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing found, due to limited classroom space, educators and clinical sites for teaching.
The HHS has previously allocated funds to address pipeline concerns. In 2022, the HHS invested $13 million, in partnership with the Department of Labor, to expand nursing programs’ capacity, by increasing the number of nursing preceptors available to supervise students’ clinical rotations and the number of students who could train in acute settings.
Last month, Secretary Becerra announced the HHS Health Workforce Initiative, which pledges a proposed $2.7 billion toward workforce training, scholarship, loan repayment and wellbeing programs for healthcare workers.
The healthcare worker shortage has also caught the attention of lawmakers. In May, Adam Schiff, D-Calif., introduced the Support Faculty and Expand Access to Nursing School Act, to provide grant funding through the HHS to nursing schools, expanding their capacity to train more nurses by hiring more nursing faculty.