Assembly leaders have alternative for Nevada’s nursing shortage |

Assembly leaders have alternative for Nevada’s nursing shortage

BEN KIECKHEFER, Associated Press

Assembly leaders on Thursday produced a new proposal to double enrollment at Nevada’s nursing schools.

The measure, developed by the University and Community College System of Nevada, would have the higher education system absorb about $6 million in costs over the upcoming biennium to enroll an additional 640 nursing students.

Nevada averages 520 nurses per 100,000 population, while the national average is 782 nurses per 100,000 people, according to a 2000 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services report on nurse staffing.

Under the plan, nursing program enrollment would increase from just under 700 students in fiscal 2003 to more than 1,300 students in fiscal 2005.

Of the $6 million cost of the increased enrollment, $3.4 million of that will come from UCCSN formula funds and almost $1.4 million will come from the system’s workman’s compensation fund. The rest would come from student fees.

Additionally, the Nevada Hospital Association would contribute about $360,000 in equipment and training.

Also included in the plan is a revolving loan fund that would include $300,000 over the coming biennium to provide financial aid to nursing students.

Assemblywoman Ellen Koivisto, D-Las Vegas, helped construct the plan and is chairwoman of the Assembly Health and Human Services Committee.

“While this is a serious problem all over the nation, it is particularly bad in our state with our tremendous growth,” Koivisto said in a written statement. “If we don’t find a way to graduate more nursing students from our colleges and universities, the problem will only get worse.”

Bill Welch of the Nevada Hospital Association praised the plan, but cautioned that nursing students wouldn’t be available to work in Nevada hospitals for another three years.

The plan was discussed at a Senate-Assembly budget subcommittee meeting.