Chris Schulz Published

Legislators Hear Update On State’s Effort To Address Nursing Shortage

Nurse's cap and stethoscope. SocjosensPG

Legislators have tried to help address the state’s nursing shortage, but one of their actions may have had an unintended consequence.

Senate Bill 518 became law in March of this year and aimed to update and streamline state code relating to registered nursing.

As members of the Legislative Oversight Commission on Education Accountability heard Tuesday, one provision that removed the licensure fee for RNs and APRNs has had an unintended consequence on the state’s nursing education.

West Virginia Center for Nursing Administrator Jordyn Reed said the licensure fees accounted for 75 percent of the organization’s revenue and threatened the state’s nursing scholarship programs.

“The West Virginia Nursing Scholarship Program, about 75 to 80 percent of our revenue goes to this program,” she said. “So losing that funding via SB 518 is going to affect this program, we’re not going to be able to continue it without additional funding.”

Reed said the program is one of the most successful because recipients are required to complete a service obligation in the state, and as of August 2020, 88.7 percent of service obligation completers still maintain an active West Virginia nursing license.

Dr. Cynthia Persily, Vice Chancellor for Health Sciences at the Higher Education Policy Commission, said a line item for the Center for Nursing’s annual budget of $500,000 was already submitted to the governor’s office.

She also outlined a restructuring of the Center for Nursing.

“The legislation that we will propose will be to repeal the section of code that created the West Virginia Center for Nursing because it creates it as a separate state agency, and then bring some of that language over into the appropriate part of higher education,” Persily said.

Reed also highlighted the state’s nursing academy model that exposes middle and high school students to nursing careers by bringing them to health care facilities in schools of nursing. In 2022, there were seven academies across the state serving more than 200 students.

“This is a pipeline program, the only one that is nursing specific in the state,” Reed said. “There’s mentoring, there’s career shadowing, and there’s hands-on activities to get kids excited about nursing.”

Persily also highlighted a nurse recruitment program held over the summer, inspired by the West Virginia Ascend Program, that enticed out of state nurses with a relocation bonus.

“It was to bring nurses from out of state to West Virginia,” she said. “In a very short period of time, May through September, we brought in 102 nurses from out of state to move to West Virginia and pledge to work in West Virginia.”