Are We Ignoring a Good Source of Nurses?

In a RealClearPolicy original piece, Thomas K. Lindsay makes the case we are:

With the graying of America has come a shortage of health-care professionals, especially nurses. One major contributor to this problem is a lack of capacity at nursing schools. From 2009 to 2011, 85 percent of Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) programs turned away qualified applicants; in 2011, 51 percent of qualified ADN applicants were turned away due to lack of capacity. The leading cause of this crunch is a dearth of faculty and clinical sites.

That's the bad news. (Well, most of it.) Now for the good: There are national programs available to increase our capacity for nursing education. Even better, these programs come at no cost to the state and do not compete with in-state schools for new-to-nursing students. Instead, they enroll students who already work in the health-care field, provide them the means to gain additional knowledge and skills, and then require students to pass rigorous competency exams before graduation.

Back to the bad news: The federal government -- along with many states, including California, our nation's largest -- is not helping, but in fact is hampering, these needed programs, thereby stifling the creation of new pathways into the nursing profession as well as depriving patients of needed care. How? By refusing to treat these programs as equal to other types of training. These programs' students are ineligible for federal Title IV funding for the competency-based components of the curriculum, and many states either refuse to license the programs' graduates or make them clear hurdles that graduates of traditional nursing schools do not face.

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