Nurses Split on Obama's Proposed Budget

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media , February 5, 2010

The American Nurses Association (ANA) supports the Obama Administration's 2011 proposed budget that generally maintains previous funding levels for registered nursing programs. But the Visiting Nurse Associations of America (VNAA) says that "serious concerns remain" about possible budget cuts that could significantly impact home health.

Even the ANA, which praised the president's resolve to strengthen nursing programs, acknowledges most of the funding is not ideal.

"Obviously we would have loved to see an increase in funding," says Rachel M. Conant, associate director, department of government affairs, for the American Nurses Association, which represents 2.9 million registered nurses. "But with this economy, a lot of programs remained flat, and we're very fortunate. And I'm happy there is a commitment to nurse education funding."

The administration plans to spend $244 million toward the recruitment, education, and retention of 20,000 nursing students and registered nurses. The ANA said in a statement that the budget proposal "clearly demonstrates [the President's] continued commitment to strengthen the nursing workforce and improving access to health services."

If implemented, the new budget would channel funds toward "recruiting student nurses, training, and different workforce development programs for comprehensive education," Conant says.

Nursing is confronting a shortage among staff as well as faculty, which are needed for nursing instruction, Conant says. Nursing school enrollment and graduation surveys increased enrollments in bachelor's programs over the past year. Yet more than 40,000 qualified applications were turned away in 2009 because of faculty shortages, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN).

AACN officials applauded the administration's decision to keep level fund the Nursing Workforce Development Programs (Title VIII of the Public Health Service Act) despite federal budget constraints.

The decision represents a 3% increase for the National Institute of Nursing Research, which would "advance nursing science and help to translate its initiatives for improved quality patient care," AACN president Fay Raines said in a prepared statement.

"President Obama has demonstrated a continued dedication to nursing education and research at a time when the economic reality adds significance to even the smallest increases," Raines said.

VNAA, however, stated in a press release that "serious concerns remain" about how much Medicare home health and hospice will be cut to achieve $150 billion in assumed savings over 10 years as outlined in the Obama budget proposal.

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