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Beshear’s proposed budget addresses nurse shortage

Governor Beshear presented part of his budget proposal Wednesday.
Governor Beshear presented part of his budget proposal Wednesday.(Governor Andy Beshear/Facebook)
Published: Jan. 13, 2022 at 2:30 PM CST
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Gov. Andy Beshear outlined part of his proposed budget plan on Wednesday, saying he would expand healthcare access for Kentuckians and address the state’s critical nurse shortage.

Kentucky has been struggling to recruit and retain nurses since before the pandemic, but COVID-19 made the issue worse.

The piece of Beshear’s proposed budget that would address the shortage would cost around $57 million over five years; the money would come from American Rescue Plan dollars and state taxpayers.

The budget would set aside $2 million to launch an ad campaign to recruit nurses and change the public’s perception of them. In addition, Beshear wants to double the amount of scholarship money available to nurses from $3 million to $6 million so more students can receive the funds.

“This is a much needed increase from the current scholarships financed by a portion of nursing licensing fees, which are only awarded to about 150 students,” Beshear said.

His proposed budget would also address nurse retention in Kentucky. Nurses who stay in state for five years could receive up to $15,000 in loan forgiveness.

Delanor Manson, the CEO of the Kentucky Nurses Association told WAVE 3 News the plan is a good start.

She said nurses are leaving Kentucky because other states with worse shortages and travel agencies are offering much higher pay.

“There’s a rate of $150 to $200 an hour that some travel nurses are getting, and many of these travel nurses are being recruited, and they’re working in the same places they worked as a staff person or a nurse leader,” Manson said. “In many cases, they have student loans they need to pay, or they have mortgages they need to pay, and they’re not making enough in their positions in the community to pay those student loans. But let me just say, travel nurse fees are not sustainable for most organizations.”

“One of the things we really need to do is figure out a way to keep our nurses and keep them at home; keep them in their communities and not allow the attractiveness of making a lot of money something that they choose,” she added.

Manson believes part of the solution is to give all nurses who stayed in Kentucky retention bonuses, including those who work in long-term care facilities, corrections, schools, universities, and those who work as nurse practitioners.

Manson said the shortage impacts everyone because nurses account for 53 percent of all healthcare professionals.

“We need nurses to provide that 53 percent of what patients need when they need healthcare,” Manson said. “And if those nurses aren’t there, what happens to you in terms of receiving your healthcare?”

Beshear will present his budget plan to the Republican-led legislature Thursday evening at 7 p.m. House Republicans filed their own budget before receiving the governor’s recommendations, in a break from tradition.

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