Bill seeks funding to counter Missouri nursing shortage

Tuesday, February 22, 2011 | 6:37 p.m. CST; updated 7:35 p.m. CST, Tuesday, February 22, 2011

JEFFERSON CITY — The House Committee on Higher Education heard testimony Tuesday that a shortage of nurses in Missouri could be helped with grant funding outlined in a bill before the committee.

House Bill 223 would allocate $1 million over three years to hire new faculty and train more nurses at state universities.

“The jobs for these nurses are there; it’s the issue of educating them to take those jobs that is of still substantial difficulty for state institutions,” said Mike Nietzel, higher education adviser to Gov. Jay Nixon.

The state funding would be part of Nixon’s Caring for Missourians program, administered with the cooperation of the State Board of Nursing and the Department of Higher Education.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Wayne Wallingford, R-Cape Girardeau, said during the hearing that one reason a nursing shortage exists is the lack of nursing school faculty at state universities, which forces programs to turn away a large number of applicants.

The funding would come from licensing fees that Missouri’s registered nurses pay to the state every two years, said Lori Scheidt, executive director of the Missouri State Board of Nursing.

Those universities interested in receiving grants must apply and have their applications examined by the Board of Nursing and the Department of Higher Education.

Nietzel said the best applications would make the strongest cases for how more faculty would increase enrollment and graduation.

The bill would repeal an outdated incentive grant program that dealt with non-traditional nursing students.

The committee had planned to take the bill into executive session, but it delayed that process until next Tuesday.

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