Investing in nursing education: New initiative boosts funds for advanced training

The combination of an aging baby boomer generation and the enactment of the Affordable Care Act has experts predicting there is soon to be a severe shortage of doctors in the U.S. According to projections from the Association of American Medical Colleges, by 2015 there will be a shortage of 62,900 r M.D.s in our health care system, and in the following decade that amount will double. And even without factoring in the new health care, by 2025 the shortage of doctors could exceed 100,000. That’s what makes a recent announcement from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services such good news.

As announced by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, an new program to fund innovative models for the clinical education of advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) has been created through the Affordable Care Act.

“With this important initiative, we are putting more advanced practice nurses on the front lines of our health care system and further strengthening and growing our primary care workforce,” Secretary Sebelius said at the announcement.

The Department of HHS is banking on the concept that expanding the ranks of APRNs will vastly widen the pool of badly needed primary care givers. Up until now, the high cost of quality clinical training has gated down the number of APRN students a hospital or other health care facility can accept. In this first phase of this new initiative, five hospitals with partnering nursing schools have been selected:

  • Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA)
  • Duke University Hospital (Durham, NC)
  • Scottsdale Healthcare Medical Center (Scottsdale, AZ)
  • Rush University Medical Center (Chicago, IL)
  • Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center Hospital (Houston, TX)

Participants in the APRN programs will receive clinical training in the skills needed for primary care, preventative care, transitional care, chronic care management and other care programs geared toward Medicare beneficiaries.

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) is solidly behind this new program. AACN Executive Director and CEO, Dr. Geraldine Bednash, and AACN President, Dr. Jane Kirschling, joined Secretary Sebelius at the announcement. Applauding the initiative, Kirschling said “…it represents a strong and purposeful step forward to enhance collaboration among nursing schools and their practice colleagues that will increase the number of APRNs providing exceptional care to Americans.”

Delivering quality care to an ever-growing population of Americans is something that resonates strongly with health care and other advocacy groups like the American Association of Retired People (AARP). And there is a growing awareness that nurses — especially APRNs and nurse practitioners — are critically important in a health care delivery system.

“AACN is excited that the release of these new dollars will directly support graduate nursing education,” Dr. Kirshling says. “APRNs are vital to ensuring access to high-quality, cost-effective care for our nation. This federal investment demonstrates the Administration’s commitment to supporting nurses as essential providers within the healthcare team.”

This is good news for the nursing profession — and equally good news for the growing number of Americans who need skilled medical care.