State, Health Officials Address Severe Nursing Shortage

State projects shortage of 17,000 nurses by 2012 if no action is taken

TOWSON, Md. (Feb. 7, 2008)—Governor Martin O'Malley today announced new initiatives to recruit more nursing faculty and students to address the nursing shortage in the State. During his visit to St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson, Governor O'Malley announced the allocation of $3.4 million to the University of Maryland School of Nursing to help address the shortage. The funds will come from the Higher Education Investment Fund (HEIF).

As of 2003, Maryland was experiencing a shortage of 3,000 nurses, 2,000 of which are needed in hospitals alone, according to the Association of Maryland Hospitals and Health Systems. The demand for registered nurses in the year 2012 is projected to increase to 62,333 nurses—leaving Maryland at a projected shortage of 17,000 nurses if action is not taken now.

Last year, Governor O'Malley appropriated $5.93 million to the Maryland Higher Education Commission's Nursing Support Program, to expand enrollment in nursing programs and create jobs. According to the governor's office, the program is expected to increase enrollment by 2,613 students over the next five years.

"Nurses are the backbone of Maryland's healthcare system and play an invaluable role in delivering the best patient care," said Governor O'Malley. "To ensure that all Marylanders have access to the highest quality of care, an adequate supply of well-trained and committed nurses is absolutely critical."

Governor O'Malley was joined today by Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Secretary John Colmers; Maryland Higher Education Commission Secretary James Lyons; Dean of the University of Maryland School of Nursing, Dr. Janet Allen; and officials from the St. Joseph Medical Center, President and CEO John Tolmie and Chief Nurse Officer Pam Jamieson.

According to Allen, the shortage of nurses is not due solely to a lack of nursing candidates.

"It's unconscionable that we have to turn away nearly 2,000 qualified applicants to our nursing programs while one-in-eight RN positions at hospitals remain vacant," said Dr. Allan. "We won't solve the nursing shortage unless we solve the nursing faculty shortage first."

The School of Nursing is the largest in the nation, with over 500 graduates per year, and is ranked 7th, according to U.S. News and World Report. The $3.4 million allocated from the Higher Education Investment Fund (HEIF) will go towards the implementation of the first phase of the School of Nursing's plan to address the nursing shortage, providing:

-- Simulation lab equipment, renovation, and operating costs for the School of Nursing program at Shady Grove;

-- Expanded classroom space for the School of Nursing at Shady Grove;

-- Maintenance of high-quality program and student-faculty ratios: 9 faculty, 14 clinical staff instructors, 2 graduate teaching assistants, 7 administrative and clinical staff;

-- Tuition for additional students at the Shady Grove campus.

In addition to funding specific to the nursing issue, the Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC) awards $110 million a year in scholarships to State students. A substantial amount of these include workforce shortage assistance grants for nurses, nursing faculty, and physical and occupational therapists, according to MHEC Secretary James Lyons.

"MHEC's Loan Assistance Repayment Grants program is popular among nurses, primary care physicians and dentists willing to practice in rural areas, and many of our educational assistance grants and Delegate and Senatorial scholarships go to nurses as well, as these jobs are so valuable," said Lyons.

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