New York City Health Workers Tackle Nursing Shortage with Education Reforms

Proposed solutions include government income tax legislation for nurse practitioners and other healthcare professionals who act as clinical mentors for students – a kind of structured mentoring that bridges the gap between classroom teaching and clinical practice teaching.

The Healthcare Association, which represents hundreds of systems, nursing homes and other institutions across the state, and the Greater New York Hospital Association are calling on legislators to fund the next state budget for nursing residency programs. The hospital group, which represents 140 institutions in New York, said in a written statement to the Assembly that funding will go towards providing nursing trainers, developing a curriculum and covering mentoring costs.

Stephen Ferrara, associate dean of clinical affairs at Columbia School of Nursing, said the effort should start earlier in the nursing career – as early as elementary school, where nurses can help students learn about careers in health care and encourage them to pursue nursing as a profession.

It is very important to create more space for aspiring nurses, Ferrara said. The aging of medical school faculty represents an impending opportunity for a shortage of teachers for the next generation, which he attributed in part to faculty salaries lower than bedside salaries.

“If we don’t have a faculty to train the incoming cadres that we need,” he said, “then we will end up rejecting qualified candidates.”

Observers say hospitals and nursing homes have a limited number of places for nursing students to gain the clinical experience they need to pursue higher education. Some stakeholders have suggested that the state allow hours of clinical training done in virtual simulation labs to count on graduation, although nurses caution that personal and virtual experiences are not interchangeable.

Pat Kane, executive director of the New York State Nursing Association, a union that represents over 42,000 members, said she theoretically supports increased use of simulations, but she said they lack the mentoring aspect of personal clinical experience.

“When you come to this medical ward, the instructor does not stay with you all the time – I stay with you,” she said during the November 17 Assembly hearing. “This mentoring and career talk … really important conversations.”

Ferrara said the state should at least explore this possibility, given the evidence that simulations are a quality educational tool for training nursing students.

Nursing tubing needs to fill large shoes. There are over 9,300 job openings in the state for registered nurses alone, according to the governor’s office.

This story first appeared in our sister publication Crain’s New York Business.

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