Durbin Attends Illinois State University's Nursing School Campus Ribbon Cutting

SPRINGFIELD – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) todayparticipated in the ribbon cutting ceremony for Illinois State University’s (ISU) new Mennonite College of Nursing campus in Springfield, which was established in partnership with Memorial Health System.

“Investing in institutions like ISU’s College of Nursing will address the shortage of nurses and help the well-being of our heartland,” said Durbin. “By bringing quality education opportunities downstate, we’re sowing the seeds of a robust health care workforce that will meet the needs of communities that need it most.”

Prior to COVID, Illinois was already facing a shortfall of 15,000 nurses. Nationally, a recent survey reported that 100,000 nurses left the field during the pandemic, and another 800,000 plan to retire soon. This is an especially dire problem in rural areas, where patients have to drive longer distances—often causing patients to put-off seeing someone for health conditions that can grow much worse without early medical intervention.

In May, Durbin unveiled his “Roadmap to Grow Illinois’ Rural Health Workforce”—a partnership with hospitals, community health centers, medical and nursing schools, community colleges, dentists, physicians, and nurses that organizes efforts and provides new funding to address health care workforce shortages and staffing crises in rural Illinois. The Roadmap focuses on: (1) pipelines to recruit middle/high-school students into health careers; (2) expanding capacity of clinical education programs; and (3) enhancing recruitment to rural areas.

Durbin also authored a provision in the American Rescue Planto invest $1 billion into the National Health Service Corps (NHSC), which funds scholarships and loan repayment fornew doctors, nurses, dentists, and behavioral health clinicians who commit to serve in rural and urban areas of need. Medical professionals can graduate with student debt of more than $200,000, which can discourage them from pursuing these careers in the first place, or lead to them choosing to practice in high-paying specialties or in more affluent and urban areas. The NHSC program helps build the pipeline of new health providers and surge them to shortage areas.  Today, Illinois has nearly 1,000 health professionals serving under the NHSC program.  In March, Durbin and Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced the Restoring America’s Health Care Workforce and Readiness Act, which will reauthorize and increase funding for NHSC.