Lawmakers Seek to Ease Texas Nurses Shortage

Spectrum News: Lawmakers Seek to Ease Texas Nurses Shortage

By Victoria Maranan

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

AUSTIN, Texas — If the current economic trends keep up, Texas expects to be short 70,000 nurses by 2020.

But a bill was making its way through the Senate that could make earning a nursing degree easier for junior college students.

Nursing students, Aimee Oldaker and Megan Snay, worked on their associates degrees. Both plan to pursue a bachelors, or BSN, that fits in their schedule.

“I have two children at home and I needed to work full time to fulfill those commitments,” said Oldaker.

They expect the skills they were learning to be in high demand, as Texas faces a growing shortage of nurses.

“The nurses themselves need to retire and be cared for and the community overall is aging,” said Snay.

To help mend that gap in the system, a bill was introduced to allow junior colleges, like Austin Community College, to offer a bachelors’ degree in nursing.

“We want our nurses to be able to stay in the community, keep working and have an affordable path toward getting that degree,” said ACC’s Molly Beth Malcolm.

ACC said, should the bill pass, students wouldn’t have to pay as much or transfer to earn their BSN, making it more accessible. The goal is to boost the nursing population, but the Texas Nurses Association doubted it will work.

“This isn’t producing new nurses, this is actually allowing the community colleges to offer an alternative degree,” said TNA’s Cindy Zolnierek.

While a similar program is offered in other states, critics said there’s no proof the program would help with the shortage.

“We really feel that the proven record for addressing the nursing shortage has been the standing programs, the existing programs that we currently have,” Zolnierek said.

But supporters said, a little goes a long way.

“It won’t cure the problem, that’s correct, but it’ll absolutely help that problem,” said Malcolm.

Aside from nursing, the proposed bill also pertains to applied science and technology programs in junior colleges.

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