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Advisory committee holds meeting to address nurse shortage in Kentucky

Published: Jan. 12, 2022 at 10:53 PM EST
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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WKYT) - As cases of COVID-19 overwhelm hospitals again, Governor Andy Beshear is putting a focus on Kentucky’s nursing shortage, a crisis he declared a state of emergency for last month.

On Wednesday the Team Kentucky Nursing Advisory Committee held its first meeting. The committee said pay is one challenge that leads to others. Especially for nurses who live near bordering states where they can easily cross state lines to make more money. The professionals said if they could just keep those nurses in Kentucky, that would be a huge help, but they also need nursing students to fill positions.

“Students are choosing to go into other careers where they can work from home, more tech jobs,” said Audria Denker with the Kentucky Board of Nursing.

Denker said students she’s talked to are scared that they’re going into a “demilitarized zone and into combat.”

A day before his budget address to lawmakers, Governor Beshear released his healthcare budget plan, which includes $6 million a year for scholarships, doubling awards from $1,500 to $3,000 a semester.

“Let’s take positive action to say in one clear voice, that we love our Kentucky nurses. We want to support them, and we want more people to join their ranks,” Gov. Beshear said.

It also comes down to work load, especially during unprecedented COVID surges.

“How do we help nurses cope with the second, third and fourth wave so they can have good mental health, and they can promote nursing to others?” Heather Owens said.

“The pandemic didn’t cause the nursing shortage, we had a nursing shortage before. What it did was it pulled the covers off and exacerbated the nursing shortage,” said Delanor Manson with the Kentucky Nurses Association.

It’s a shortage that these leaders say will only get worse, if pay, mental health, and retainment aren’t addressed.

Under the governor’s plan is a student loan forgiveness program that would start in May. It provides $5 million a year, for five years, for loan forgiveness up to $3,000 a year for a nurse or nurse faculty member who is employed in Kentucky.

The committee has a deadline of March 10 to send recommendations to Gov. Beshear.

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