Graduation is already approaching, and for the world of nurses it may not come soon enough. My students – who will become certified nurses or nurses – will serve patients in all 50 states in a shortage of employment.
As a nurse, I see how much they are needed.
As a resident of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Nurses, I want as many nurses as possible to stay on staff and serve patients here. As Chair of the Nursing Program at West Chester University, I also want my students to succeed at the top of our field.
Unfortunately, these things contradict: some nurses will have to leave Pennsylvania to rise to the highest level of education and training. That’s why other states offer nurses more competitive terms than Pennsylvania.
New York is the latest state to modernize its rules for practicing nurses by joining a list of 26 states, including our neighbors in Delaware and Maryland.
I am worried that my daughter will be one of the practicing nurses who has to leave. After five years of patient care, she is now completing a master’s degree in family nursing. She can’t wait for the start of the next chapter of her nursing career.
Employers also cannot – she receives daily recruitment from hospitals and health systems on the east coast. There is fierce competition to hire practicing nurses, and I want Pennsylvania to save as much as possible. I want my daughter and my students to thrive near home.
We can and should do more to encourage practicing nurses to serve in Pennsylvania and support practicing nurses who already do. We owe it to our patients.
The last few years of the pandemic have been exhaustive for our healthcare workers. Many of my colleagues have decided to retire. But even if COVID-19 subsides, we must be prepared to face other health challenges. We need to plan for the next five, 10 and 20 years.
Practitioner nurses are trained and trained to serve patients. We are nationally certified to prescribe medications, order and interpret diagnostic tests, take patients to hospitals and take patients to their homes.
First of all, we practice “all” patient care by putting the patient at the center. We are ready, willing and able to help, and patients trust us to do so.
Pennsylvania has some big and unique challenges. Our aging population is growing much faster than in other states. We have a significant population with inadequate health care in rural and urban areas.
It is projected that in the coming years we will need thousands of additional health workers to keep up. Primary care – where practicing nurses are particularly strong – is an ongoing need.
Fortunately, we also have great benefits.
Pennsylvania is a national leader in nursing education. We have 26 nursing schools that offer certified nursing programs. Last year, Pennsylvania graduated 2,410 nurses. Per capita this is more than twice the number of nursing graduates in California.
We need to use our strengths to the fullest. Politicians can take a few simple steps to make sure the nurses we train in Pennsylvania choose to practice here. Here’s what I recommend we do:
– Loan forgiveness: we need to maintain and expand government funding to forgive loans to all suppliers, especially those located in unserved settlements.
– Full authority: we need Pennsylvania to surpass neighboring states, including Maryland and New York. We need to bring the Commonwealth in line with national best practices to streamline the licensing process and make it more accessible to practice as a practicing nurse.
This reform has broad stakeholder support including the Pennsylvania AARP, the Pennsylvania Association of Hospitals and Health Systems, the Pennsylvania Insurance Federation, the Pennsylvania Rural Health Association and many more.
– COVID waivers: If we are recovering from the last wave of COVID-19 and rebuilding the workforce, we need to expand the temporary waivers that make us more flexible. With fine tuning some of these could be made permanent.
– Chief Nurses: Pennsylvania should establish a position of Chief Nursing Officer in the Department of Health to ensure practicing nurses and our fellow nurses are fully involved in the agency’s decision-making process.
– Expand telemedicine: As the state faces a critical shortage of health care, we support efforts to make it easier for providers to serve patients across the state.
All these ideas are tried and true. They will improve patient care, protect patient safety, expand access to care and reduce costs. Best of all, they use Pennsylvania’s great strengths to solve our biggest problems.
Practitioner nurses and politicians can take on any challenge if we work together.
Cheryl Schlomb, a Cotsville resident, is president of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Nurses. She is chair of the nursing program at the University of West Chester.