President Barack Obama's proposed healthcare workforce development funding for fiscal year 2010 would bring incentives to nurses both in the field and in the classroom.
Of $1 billion in the budget devoted toward strengthening healthcare professions, $125 million is allocated to the Nursing Education Loan Repayment Program (NELPN)—an $88 million increase from the 2009 budget. Funds for the Nurse Faculty Loan Program (NFLP) would increase by 40%.
The incentives, according to Elaine Tagliareni, EdD, RN, president of the National League for Nursing (NLN) and professor in the department of nursing at the Community College of Philadelphia, are much-needed in the profession.
"Right now community colleges are on the forefront of creating cost-effective access to nursing," says Tagliareni, adding that about 60% of new graduates nationwide come from associate degree programs. "The issue is academic progression; we need these incentives to bring people into nursing in a variety of ways, build the ability of the workforce, and also help them move academically."
The shortage of nursing faculty available to provide education currently halts the cycle of nurses advancing in healthcare and college settings. NLN statistics illustrate an estimated 99,000 qualified applications (almost 40%) submitted to prelicensure RN programs were rejected between 2006-2007 because of a lack of space for students. The demand for more faculty—which Tagliareni states is one of the biggest concerns for NLN—is vital to moving nurses through the pipeline.
Bolstering programs, such as NELPN and NFLP, provides nurses with the financial means to press forward professionally. NELPN contracts RNs with the federal government to work full-time in a healthcare facility with a nursing shortage in return for repayment of qualifying educational loans. NFLP funds eligible schools of nursing offering advanced education nursing programs to prepare graduates to serve as nursing faculty.
Along with these programs, scholarships and stipends are major to recruiting nursing faculty, says Tagliareni who has been an educator for 27 years. Nurses must obtain a master's degree to teach and are paid less than they would as practicing nurses.
"Academic institutions manage salary, but since salary can't be managed from a national perspective, loan repayment and scholarships lessen the burden of extensive loans they have to repay," says Tagliareni. "It is in a sense increasing their salary."
Other benefits that could come to nurses in 2010 with Obama's budget include increased diversity. The proposed budget allots funds to Title VII and VIII of the Public Health Service Act health professions training, which are federal programs geared toward training healthcare providers in interdisciplinary settings to meet the needs of underserved patient populations, and increasing minorities in the profession.
Research shows mortality decreases when there are more nurses available in healthcare settings, says Tagliareni. "We also know that active clinical practice nurses who move onto master's and doctoral programs bring with them an understanding of the practice environment that gets disseminated to students. That knowledge will be infused into nursing curriculum and improve the quality of the healthcare workforce."