A shortage of nurses and medical technicians has left communities across the Commonwealth struggling to meet healthcare demands. In response, the state board of education launched a new initiative aimed at increasing the number of students entering health fields.
State lawmakers have pledged $10 million to participating colleges and universities.
Aaron Thompson, president of the Kentucky Council on Post-Secondary Education, said the money will be distributed as grants to technical and community schools and four-year colleges, and said institutions must have a degree pipeline for students.
“They need to have a partnership with those employers who are willing to put their skin in the game,” Thompson explained. “A lot of our health care agencies put professors on campus, they invest their money in scholarships.”
According status data, Kentucky health care facilities operate with 12% to 20% nursing staff required. The state is expected to need more than 16,000 additional nurses by 2024.
Thompson pointed out that rural areas in particular need innovative ways to attract faculty and improve academic support, resources and clinical experiences for students.
“It’s very much a process of creating good clinical opportunities,” noted Thompson. “We need to expand our ways of thinking about clinical opportunities, and just the traditional way of doing it.”
He added that electronic records, mental health, and therapeutic and rehabilitative services are also experiencing staffing shortages, while at the same time the state is seeing the number of high school students entering college decline.
He argued that community colleges are uniquely suited to step in and fill the void.
“The other part, too, is that they provide most of the dual credit here in Kentucky, so we can start this pipeline for dual credit courses early,” Thompson pointed out. “We can do it statewide.”
The shortage of health professionals also affects neighboring regions. According to a investigation published last year by the American Association of Critical Care Nurses, more than 90% of nurses said the pandemic had exhausted nurses in their hospitals and as a result their careers would be shorter than expected.
Support for this report was provided by Lumina Foundation.
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