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House Passes Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act

Analysis  |  By Jennifer Thew RN  
   July 25, 2018

Nursing workforce development programs will receive support through 2022.

Nursing groups are responding favorably to The U.S. House of Representatives passage of the Title VIII Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act (HR 959), earlier this week.

Last reauthorized in 2010, the act would reauthorize the nursing workforce development programs through fiscal year 2022.

 "Speaking on behalf of the nation's 52,000 certified registered nurse anesthetists, the action taken today by the House of Representatives to ensure the continuation of nursing workforce development programs and patient access to the essential care of nurses across all specialties is of paramount importance," Bruce Weiner, DNP, MSNA, CRNA, president of the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists, says in a news release.

What's in the Bill?

The legislation will:

  • Amend Title VIII of the Public Health Service Act to reauthorize nursing workforce development programs, which support the recruitment, retention, and advanced education of skilled nursing professionals.
  • Extend advanced education nursing grants to support clinical nurse specialists and clinical nurse leaders.
  • Define nurse-managed health clinics.
  • Add clinical nurse specialists to the National Advisory Council on Nurse Education.
  • Reauthorize loan repayments, scholarships, and grants for education, practice, quality, and retention.

The National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists is also pleased by the bill.

"The House of Representatives took a major step to improve the nation's health by reauthorizing the Title VIII Nursing Workforce Development Act of 2017 and by affirmatively including clinical nurse specialists – expert clinicians with advanced education and training in a specialized area of nursing practice – in the bill," says NACNS board president Anne Hysong, MSN, APRN, CCNS, ACNS-BC, in a statement.

Serving the Underserved

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of registered nurses is projected to grow 15% from 2016 to 2026.

"With our healthcare system in transition, and healthcare needs growing due to our aging population, the fact that people are living longer but with more chronic health problems, and the shortage of primary care providers, we need to do all we can to support nurse education," Hysong says.

Programs under Title VII can help attract nurses to rural and underserved areas, says Weiner.

"Title VIII provides funding to a number of very important nursing workforce development programs including Advanced Nursing Education, which contains the Nurse Anesthesia Traineeship funding as well as the National Nurse Service Corps. These programs incentivize nurses to practice in underserved areas," he says. "In many rural and underserved counties across America, CRNAs are the only anesthesia providers. Maintaining the availability of these services and ensuring a continuing flow of new CRNAs and nurses to our most vulnerable and underserved communities is critically important."

A recent study by researchers at the University of Michigan, found that of nurse practitioners tended to gravitate towards areas of high-need.

When the researchers examined where NPs work, they found the availability of NPs was about 50% higher in the least-healthy counties compared to the healthiest.

Additionally, more NPs practiced in lower-income areas with low life expectancy.

"That was nice to see," says Matthew Davis, PhD, assistant professor at the U-M School of Nursing, one of the study's authors. "The nurse practitioner workforce appears to be having some positive effects. Our work shows that nurse practitioners are more likely to set up shop in areas of higher need and other studies have shown that they provide a substantial amount of care for individuals with chronic illness."

Jennifer Thew, RN, is the senior nursing editor at HealthLeaders.

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