Durbin, Murkowski Introduce The Nurse Faculty Shortage Reduction Act

The bipartisan bill would tackle the nurse shortage by addressing the pay disparity that discourages critically needed faculty to train the next generation of nurses

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) yesterday introduced bipartisan legislation to address the pay gap between clinical and faculty nursing positions—which is the primary economic disincentive fueling the nursing shortage crisis across the country.  The Nurse Faculty Shortage Reduction Act is a bipartisan bill that would provide a federal wage differential for the salary gap between clinical nursing and nurse faculty roles—to help fill desperately needed nurse faculty positions across the country.  This program would operate alongside the Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) existing Nurse Faculty Loan Repayment Program (NFLP), to address a given nursing school or program’s needs. 

“Emerging from the pandemic, nurses face tremendous strain and burnout, resulting in an estimated 100,000 nurses having left the field.  Patients across rural and urban communities rely upon the trusted role of nurses in order to access quality health care, but we need to rebuild the nursing workforce pipeline to meet our growing needs,” said Durbin. “Through the Nurse Faculty Shortage Reduction Act, we are closing the pay gap between clinical nursing and nurse faculty roles to address the main bottleneck that is driving our nursing shortage.  I’m thankful for Senator Murkowski’s partnership on this essential, bipartisan bill, which will help support our nurses and ensure our hospitals are well-staffed.”

“Nurses are critical to any health operation—but as we continue to grapple with a nationwide shortage of nurses, we risk a future with serious healthcare challenges that threatens the health of everyone. That’s why I’m pleased to join Senator Durbin in this effort to address the nursing shortage. By supporting recruitment efforts, creating incentives for nursing students, and training more people to work as—and remain as—bedside nurses, we can support a healthier future across the country,” said Senator Lisa Murkowski.

The U.S. is projected to face a shortfall of up to 450,000 nurses by 2025, jeopardizing patient access to critical health care services across rural and urban communities.  In 2020, it was estimated that Illinois will have a shortage of 15,000 registered nurses by 2025—with half of nurses in Illinois age 55 and older, and one-quarter planning to retire soon.  Across 38 nursing colleges in Illinois, there were 94 vacant full-time nurse faculty positions last year.

The greatest bottleneck is nursing school capacity—in 2021, nursing colleges rejected 92,000 qualified applicants from BSN programs due to enrollment constraints.  The root cause of this challenge is the lack of nurse faculty and educators, with approximately 2,200 vacant full-time nurse faculty positions nationwide.  In addition to the loans to pursue higher education, this shortage of nurse faculty primarily stems from the significantly lower wages available compared to clinical nursing.  

Specifically, the Nurse Faculty Shortage Reduction Actwould require a nursing school to submit to HRSA the school’s average faculty salaries, as well as the recent clinical salary of their faculty for whom they are seeking supplemental federal funding.  HRSA would award grants in the amount of the difference between those two averages—to restore the nurse to their prior salary and thereby remove an incentive to pursue faculty roles—on the condition that the nursing school maintains its salary to the new faculty.  The bill authorizes $28.5 million a year forfive years as a pilot program.   

The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee has prioritized addressing the primary care crisis in America and the major shortages of nurses, primary care doctors, and other important health care jobs across the country, and to increase critical funding forcommunity health centers, the National Health Service Corps, and Teaching Health Centers.  A bipartisan package will be marked up next week in committee. 

The Nurse Faculty Shortage Reduction Act is endorsed by the American Nurses Association and American Association of Colleges of Nursing.