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Kentucky's 'dire' nursing shortage prompts governor to issue a state of emergency

Analysis  |  By Carol Davis  
   December 10, 2021

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear has issued a state of emergency because of the nursing shortage in his state.

"Like the nation at large, the Commonwealth of Kentucky is experiencing a dire nursing shortage," the executive order reads. "Kentucky's nursing shortage in the midst of a once-in-a-century global pandemic is nothing short of an emergency."

The Kentucky Nurses Association (KNA) has indicated the state is operating 12%-20% short of the needed nursing volume, according to the order.

"In fact, during the pandemic, the Kentucky Hospital Association called on all licensed nurses, including those retired or no longer in the industry, to assist hospitals," it reads. "Furthermore, at the rate of projected exodus from the nursing profession, Kentucky will need more than 16,000 additional nurses by 2024."

"Notably, an October 2021 survey conducted by the KNA found that in a sample of more than 800 nurses, 1 in 4 responded that it would be likely that they would leave their jobs in the next three months."

In his order, Beshear directed the state Board of Nursing to approve requests for enrollment increases from schools that can accommodate more students.

The order allows nursing schools to open new campuses more quickly if they have sufficient resources and directs nursing schools at full capacity to refer qualified student applicants to other schools with vacancies.

"Increasing enrollment in Kentucky nursing schools that meet the criteria for such increases is crucial to addressing the nursing shortage and providing quality healthcare to our citizens," Beshear said in the order.

Beshear's order also allows nurses who are licensed in other states to practice nursing in Kentucky.

Carol Davis is the Nursing Editor at HealthLeaders, an HCPro brand.

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