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 Nursing Groups Agree That Funding For NRA Is Priority For Year Ahead 

From: Legislative Network for Nurses (LNN)
Vol. 19 No. 25; December 30, 2002

The main focus for nursing advocates in 2003 is obtaining funding for the Nurse Reinvestment Act (NRA), several nurse organizations recently told LNN. 

Allison Beard, a spokesperson for the American College of Nurse Practitioners (ACNP), told LNN the association would be “working diligently” in 2003 to push for funding of the NRA. 

Kathleen Anne Long, president of the American of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), told LNN. “We commend Congress for working so quickly in 2002 to enact the Nurse Reinvestment Act.  Moving this legislation from inspiration to enactment in only one year’s time is a clear indication that Congress places a high priority on addressing the nursing shortage.  We hope that legislators maintain this focus in 2003 and act quickly to appropriate funding for this important piece of legislation.  AACN’s highest legislative priority is addressing the nursing shortage in order to safeguard patients.”

Christopher Donnellan, associate director of the department of government affairs at the American Nurses Association (ANA), told LNN, “The nurse shortage will never be addressed if Congress fails to fund this important bill.”

With the elections behind and the passage of the NRA accomplished, the nursing shortage is likely to be further down on policymakers’ priority lists in the 108th  Congress, Roxanne Fulcher, director of health professions policy at the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), told LNN. 

Nurse advocates, however, will have the opportunity to continue to draw attention to the nursing shortage as members of Congress focus on smallpox vaccinations and bioterrorism, she added.

The ACNP, AACN AACC and ANA are lobbying jointly for $250 million in funding for the NRA. 

Other Priorities

Beard told LNN that Congress is expected to address medical liability insurance, “which is important to our members, as well as other advanced practice nursing groups, such as the midwives.  ACNP was supportive of H.R. 4600, which passed the House this year [LNN, Oct.7, p. 146], and we are hopeful that this issue will move forward in the 108th.”

Beard also told LNN that the ACNP will continue to work on removing barriers to access to care for patients, especially for those that are disenfranchised, elderly, poor, uninsured and underinsured. 

Long told LNN that additional AACN priorities for 2003 include increased funding for Nurse Education Act programs.  “We would also like see a boost in funding levels for existing programs that support nursing education and research, including the realization of NINR’s five-year budget doubling plan begun in 1999.  We anticipate that nursing education and research will be considered as Congress addresses legislation related to patient safety and bioterorism preparedness,” she said.

According to the results for the annual survey released Dec. 20 by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), enrollments in entry-level baccalaureate programs in nursing increased by 8 percent in fall 2002 over the previous year.  This increase comes at a time when the need for nurses with baccalaureate and graduate degrees is expanding in the U.S. health care system.  Though this increase signals a shift in enrollment trends, the number of students in the educational pipeline is still insufficient to meet the projected demand for a million new nurses over the next 10 years, AACN said. 

AACN findings are based on responses from a total of 578 (84.4 percent) of the county’s nursing schools with baccalaureate-and graduate-degree programs that were surveyed in fall 2002. The survey found that total enrollment in all nursing programs leading to the baccalaureate degree was 116,099, up from 106,557 in 2001.  By comparison, the total enrollment in 1995, the year enrollments began to dip, was 127,683 for all baccalaureate nursing programs. 

Enrollment trends are determined by comparing data from the same schools reporting in both 2001 and 2001. Data show that nursing school enrollments are up in all regions of the United States with the greatest increase realized in the North Atlantic states where enrollments in entry-level baccalaureate programs rose by 10.7 percent.  Looking at enrollment levels in other regions, schools in the South were up by 6.7 percent, and schools in the Midwest and West were up by 8.0 percent. 

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