UPDATE: Nixon proposes using $3 million to educate Missouri nurses

Tuesday, December 7, 2010 | 5:50 p.m. CST; updated 7:23 p.m. CST, Tuesday, December 7, 2010

JEFFERSON CITY — Gov. Jay Nixon proposed Tuesday using $3 million that has been paid by the state's current nurses to help educate future nurses.

The governor said that he wants to use $1 million per year from nurse licensing fees to fund grants that would allow public colleges and universities to hire more nursing instructors. Nixon's office estimates the money would pay for about 13 full-time faculty positions each year for three years. The number of students that could be educated would depend on each school's grant application. The money would be available when the new budget year begins in July.

Missouri needs more nurses, Nixon said during a visit to Kansas City.

"Nursing is a vital and rewarding profession, and students who earn degrees in nursing have a pathway to a secure and rewarding career," Nixon said. "By investing in nursing education, we are meeting a vital need for more qualified health professionals in Missouri, and we are helping students compete in a rapidly growing industry."

Implementing the proposal would require lawmakers to include the grants in the budget and to change a state law covering how nurse licensing fees can be spent. A spokesman for the state agency that oversees professional registration said most of the fees are now used for licensing and disciplining nurses. Currently, that fund has about $9.4 million.

Jill Kliethermes, the chief executive officer for the Missouri Nurses Association, said the organization generally believes nurse licensing fees should be used to help nurses and not for other programs. The association's board of directors has not yet met to consider Nixon's plan, she said.

"Traditionally, we have not been in favor of sweeping licensure fees for general revenue. With that said, sweeping them to do something to keep it within nursing is obviously a better option," Kliethermes said.

The Missouri Board of Nursing, a state board responsible for overseeing nurses, already has voted to approve awarding the grants. Members of the board are appointed by the governor, and it is separate from the nurse association.

Missouri officials have worked in recent years to boost funding at colleges and universities for health professions. Last year, Missouri used $40 million to hire instructors and buy equipment needed to increase the number of students who can be accommodated in nursing, medicine, dental and other health care programs at community colleges and universities. That money was a one-time payment.

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