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AARP's Letter to the Health Resources and Services Administration

AARP urges use of ARRA funds for nursing workforce development

February 18, 2009

Elizabeth Duke, PhD
Administrator
Health Resources and Services Administration
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
5600 Fishers Lane
Rockville, MD 20857

Dear Dr. Duke:

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act includes $500 million for health careers training, to be administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).  AARP urges that you strategically plan to direct a significant portion of this funding to the Title VIII Nursing Workforce Development Programs.

At a time when millions of Americans are unemployed, there are well over 140,000 good paying nursing jobs in our hospitals, nursing homes, home health agencies, community health centers, and public health departments going unfilled largely because our nursing schools lack the faculty and other capacity to educate enough students.  In 2008, some 99,000 qualified applicants were turned away from nursing schools.  A well-targeted investment in capacity expansion at our nursing schools would pave the way to fill many thousands of these needed job openings within the next 1-3 years. 

We recommend that $120 million of this money be distributed in the following ways:

  • $100 Million for existing Title VIII programs such as faculty loan repayment programs, traineeships, and scholarships to help students move from part-time status to full-time or to free up time they currently direct toward employment and/or child and family care. Advanced Nurse Practice Education should be included in this program.
  • $20 Million for regional simulation laboratories and broader innovation grants. Learning through high-fidelity simulation has been in use in the aeronautics industry, the defense industry, and medical schools for decades, but it is a new mode of learning for nursing education and has demonstrated much success.  High-fidelity simulation has the potential to transform nursing education by enabling nursing schools to increase educational capacity, strengthen the quality of nursing education and to facilitate the transition of a new graduate into her/his practitioner role thereby promoting improved safety in the care of patients in hospitals.  These grants should be used for regional purposes for all level of nursing schools and can be shared with medical schools and other health care training programs to facilitate sharing limited resources and to prevent redundancy.


AARP believes that the $120 million requested for the above programs are essential for increasing nursing education capacity.  With these funds, more nurses will be available to care for the growing number of those who make up the majority of health care consumers: people over aged 50.  With only two years to go before the first of the 78 million baby boomers turn age 65, the 140,000 open nursing positions across the country will need to dramatically increase as millions more people per year will be in need of quality health care.

Thank you for your attention to our recommendation.  If you have any additional questions about this request, or the nursing workforce generally, please feel free to contact Dr. Brenda Cleary, Director, Center to Champion Nursing in America at (202) 434-3911 or at Bcleary@aarp.org.  

Sincerely,

David Sloane
Senior Vice President
Government Relations and Advocacy

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