Statewide Nursing Programs See New Legislature Funding, But Some Existing Programs Left Out | Washington

OLYMPIA — As the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated a shortage of healthcare workers in Washington and nationwide, the state legislature this year provided more than $38 million to nursing programs across the country. the state.

But not everything was evenly distributed.

Some schools, like Eastern Washington University, got funding to create a new four-year program while others, including Washington State University, got none for strengthen their current programs. Lawmakers and university officials say it’s solely because of the funding requested by each school this year.

Senator Christine Rolfes, Democratic chair of the Bainbridge Island Ways and Means Committee, said budget drafters looked across the state at what schools were asking for and where additional funding needs lay. The Legislature did not provide additional funding for all higher education nursing programs, she said, but instead looked to where it wanted to increase enrollment.

“It was the first time we said, ‘Let’s take a full look at this,'” Rolfes said. “There is a shortage of nurses and we had disposable income.

She said there was a lack of training programs in the eastern corner of the state.

Eastern Washington University has received $6.1 million over the next two years to expand its current two-year nursing program to a full four-year program.

It was a plan Eastern talked about a year from now, but with the current nursing shortage and additional revenue this year, lawmakers decided to push to provide that funding sooner, said Rep. Joe Schmick, R. -Colfax.

Schmick said the university already had meeting space and a program it planned to use, and was just waiting for the money.

“Due to the shortage of nurses, we didn’t want to wait,” Schmick said. “It’s all on deck.”

The East four-year nursing program is still in the planning stages and is currently awaiting approval from the state Nursing Quality Assurance Commission.

According to a presentation made to the university’s board of trustees, the program will begin accepting student applications in January with the goal of accepting the first cohort of 40 students in the fall of 2023. There will be 160 places at the total in the program.

The nursing school is in the process of hiring staff and developing a facilities plan before starting construction in the near future.

Rolfes said another reason for funding Eastern’s program was its location and the participants it normally receives. She said Eastern often has more of a tradition of students attending high schools in the area, which might “meet a different need.”

Chris Mulick, director of state relations at WSU, said they did not apply for funding for new nursing enrollment slots this year. They try to keep their budget requests “pretty narrow,” he said.

Mulick said he was contacted by House leaders to offer a cost proposal for expanding nursing slots, but it was never funded.

“It happens,” he said. “We receive many requests to estimate the cost of a program.”

Rolfes said there’s no specific reason Washington State University didn’t get funding this year, other than the fact the university didn’t specifically request it and that legislators did not think it was necessary.

Much of what higher education institutions receive from the legislature depends on what they ask for, and that varies from school to school each year, Mulick said.

“It’s pretty rare that you all end up getting paid for the same thing,” he said. “We have six public universities that are very different and have very different needs in our state.”

In addition to Eastern, three other public higher education programs have received funding for nursing education.

Western Washington University received funding this year to create a new Master of Science and Nursing program, which will enroll 10 to 15 students each year.

They will receive $461,000 over the next two years. They also received $433,000 to increase their registered nurse’s enrollment in the baccalaureate nursing program.

The University of Washington has received more than $1.2 million for additional nursing slots at the Seattle and Tacoma campuses.

Technical and community colleges received more than $3.7 million for at least 50 additional nursing positions.

The Legislative Assembly has also set aside more than $15 million to upgrade simulation lab equipment at community colleges, universities and public high schools. They also allocated $3 million for a loan repayment program for nurse educators, which will provide up to $75,000 in loan repayment in exchange for three years of service.

Most of the new slots funded this year won’t be available until 2023, so it may take budget writers a few years to see if what they’ve funded this year will be enough to meet demand, Rolfes said.

There is a shortage of nurses at all educational and professional levels, Rolfes said. The Legislative Assembly will need to determine what needs to be done to increase the demand for courses in the future.

“In the meantime, we’ve created more supply,” she said. “But we’ll have to see, will those slots fill up?” Will students enroll?

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