Durbin Introduces Legislation to Ease Nationwide Nursing Shortage

Legislation would offer incentives to train more healthcare workers are nurses

[WASHINGTON, DC] – Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) today introduced legislation to ease our nation’s nursing shortage which is expected to exceed one million by 2020. The Nurse Training and Retention Act would build on the current healthcare workforce by creating incentives for healthcare worker to become nurses and for current nurses to become nurse faculty.


“Everyone depends on nurses for quality patient care, yet the healthcare system in America lacks an adequate supply of nurses and the problem is getting worse,” said Durbin. “By 2020, the shortage in Illinois alone could exceed 21,000. Today’s legislation proposes a new, innovative program that builds on our existing healthcare workforce – an important, but currently untapped resource. The debate in Congress over healthcare reform must include solutions that address this growing problem.”


As the need for nurses grows, our ability to train more nurses is not keeping up. In Illinois, the number of qualified applicants being denied admission to nursing schools is growing. From 2002 through 2003, there were 502 qualified students rejected from Illinois nursing schools. Last year, there were 2,523 students turned away because of lack of faculty and resources. The number represents a more than 50% increase from 2007 when just 1,657 qualified applicants were turned away.


“Part of fixing Americans broken healthcare system means ensuring patients receive better quality of care through investments in training for the next generation of nurses to fill the nursing shortage." said Cathy Glasson, RN, President of Nurse Alliance of SEIU, “This legislation puts incumbent healthcare workers on track to become nurses—and no one is better prepared to become nurses than those already working in healthcare.”

Nurses who advance from other healthcare positions are familiar with the demands of the bedside and are generally more aware of the work environment and ready to meet its unique challenges. Healthcare organizations that provide these training opportunities for their workforce find that these workers require less time in orientation than new workers and represent a diverse population more representative of the patients being served.


Today’s legislation proposes building on the current healthcare workforce through a new grant program at the Department of Labor which would:


• Provide education and training to incumbent healthcare workers to earn a nursing certificate or degree (including college preparation, tuition assistance, tutoring, counseling, orientation, mentorship, and assistance); and


• Assist current nurses in obtaining specialty training or advanced degrees to serve as nurse faculty, increasing the capacity of nursing schools to train more nurses.


Durbin has continually offered legislation to address the nationwide nursing shortage. Along with Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY), Durbin introduced the Nurse Education, Expansion, and Development (NEED) on February 6, 2009 to address one of the major causes of the shortage – an insufficient number of nurse educators – by providing grants to colleges to improve their ability to educate nursing students.