House, Senate Pass Last-Minute Nursing Shortage Bills
Legislation aimed at stemming a national nursing shortage passed the House and Senate late on Dec. 20, shortly before both adjourned for the year, the Baltimore Sun reports. The Senate passed a "more sweeping" bill, which would provide $136 million in nursing scholarships and "other incentives." Sponsored by Sens. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Tim Hutchinson (R-Ark.), John Kerry (D-Mass.) and James Jeffords (I-Vt.), the bill allocates $40 million for a National Nurse Service Corps, which would offer tuition and living expenses for nursing students who agree to work "in areas where the shortage is most critical"; $57 million for "mid-career training" and for grants to improve nurses' working conditions; $20 million for scholarships, loans and stipends for nursing school faculty; $18 million to begin recruiting high school students; and $750,000 to create a national commission to recommend further action to address the shortage. The House-passed version, which "does not have a price tag," calls for financial aid for nursing students who agree to take nursing jobs in public hospitals after graduation (Hosler, Baltimore Sun, 12/22). The Washington Post reports that the House bill, authored by Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.) among others, also authorizes public service announcements promoting the profession and calls for a General Accounting Office study on the nursing shortage. According to the Post, lawmakers are "confident" they can come to terms on a compromise between the two bills, "virtually ensuring that some form of legislation will become law early next year" (Eilperin, Washington Post, 12/22). The Sun reports that 125,000 nursing positions remain unfilled nationwide (Baltimore Sun, 12/22).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.