As hospitals in New York struggle with staff shortages during the pandemic, a new incentive aims to court the next generation of nurses.
A scholarship program, Nurses for Our Future, is open for applications. It will cover tuition for 1,000 new or current health care workers to earn an associate’s degree in nursing or a bachelor’s of science in nursing at a two- or four-year state public college or university.
Roughly half of the scholarships will be awarded to out-of-state licensed nurses who relocate and practice in New York to earn a BSN. In addition, 250 state-licensed nurses will be eligible for tuition toward a bachelor’s degree, and another 250 scholarships target state residents seeking an associate’s degree.
“For the last two years, New York’s nurses have been on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we owe each and every one of them a debt of gratitude,” says Gov. Kathy Hochul. “As we continue to fight the virus, the ‘Nurses for Our Future’ scholarship will offer an important opportunity for the next generation of nurses to receive a top-tier education and ensure they are prepared to help protect their fellow New Yorkers when they are needed the most.”
The scholarships will cover tuition for four full-time semesters. Awards will be pro-rated for recipients attending less than full time and scholarships will not cover other costs of attendance, including fees, room and board, or other expenses, officials say. The goal is to incentivize health care workers to advance their education through the SUNY or CUNY system.
The state Department of Labor is expected to help market new opportunities in health care to those currently working in the field or those who are unemployed.
Currently, there are 9,300 openings for registered nurses in New York. In the Finger Lakes region, there are 945 openingsfor RNs. Last month, there were 18,989 total job postings for RNs in the region; 2,757 of these posts were unique, according to Monroe Community College’s Workforce Clusters Database Wage and Gap Analysis.
Nationwide, there will be far more registered nurse jobs available than any other profession, the American Nurses Association predicts, at more than 100,000 per year. In addition to pandemic fatigue and burnout, several hundred thousand nurses are expected to retire in 2022. The U.S. Department of Labor expects roughly 194,500 openings for registered nurses each year, on average, over the decade. These openings are expected to result from retiring nurses and those who choose to leave the profession altogether.
In September, Ernest Grant, president of ANA, wrote a letter to Xavier Becerra, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, urging the administration to declare a national nurse staffing crisis and take immediate steps to develop and implement both short- and long-term solutions. A recent survey by Trusted Health on the mental health and well-being of nurses found that nurses under 40 were 22 percent more likely than average to report that their commitment to nursing had decreased. The report suggests creating new opportunities for nurses, among other recommendations.
“The write-in responses from nurses who reported feeling less committed to the profession indicated that many are simply looking for a new role within the field. This should be a clear signal to hospitals that they need to identify opportunities in less acute settings or away from the bedside for those who want it,” the report states.
Though New York’s Nurses for Our Future is a small step toward bridging the labor gap, it is likely to take a mix of approaches to prevent a crisis.
Smriti Jacob is Rochester Beacon managing editor.