Letter from ANNA and other nursing organizations to Senate and House leaders requesting them to make nursing workforce development a priority in the final negotiations on the FY 2008 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Act

October 11, 2007

The Honorable David Obey
Chairman, Subcommittee on Labor,
Health and Human Services, and Education
Committee on Appropriations  
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC  20515

The Honorable Tom Harkin
Chairman, Subcommittee on Labor,
Health and Human Services, and Education
Committee on Appropriations  
United States Senate
Washington, DC  20510

The Honorable James Walsh
Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Labor,
Health and Human Services, and Education
Committee on Appropriations  
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC  20515

The Honorable Arlen Specter
Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Labor,
Health and Human Services, and Education
Committee on Appropriations  
United States Senate
Washington, DC  20510

Dear Chairmen Obey and Harkin, and Ranking Members Walsh and Specter:

The undersigned organizations urge you to make nursing workforce development a priority in the final negotiations on the FY 2008 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Act. Specifically, we respectfully ask you to maintain the full $20 million increase in funding for the Nursing Workforce Development Programs (Title VIII of the Public Health Service Act) contained in S. 1710. As you know, these Title VIII programs are the main source of federal support for nursing recruitment, education, and retention.

Nurses are the primary source of care and support for patients at the most vulnerable points in their lives. Nearly every person's health care experience involves a Registered Nurse (RN). As a result, a sufficient supply of nurses is critical in providing our nation’s population with quality health care. Nurses are expected to play an even larger role in the future. The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) projects that, absent aggressive intervention, the supply of nurses in America will fall 36 percent (more than 1 million nurses) below requirements by the year 2020.

Nurses are also the cornerstone of pandemic flu, disaster, and terrorism preparedness. If any these events were to occur, nurses will be critical to patient treatment and evaluation, vaccine administration, and disease surveillance. The Government Accountability Office, the American Hospital Association, and the Trust for America’s Health have all released reports citing the nursing shortage as a major impediment to these preparedness efforts.

Of further concern is that the nursing shortage also is posing significant challenges with respect to the delivery of health care to our nation’s armed services. The Army, Navy, and Air Force are offering new lucrative RN recruitment packages, yet neither the Army nor the Air Force has met their active service nurse recruitment goals since the 1990s. The Navy has not met its recruitment goal in four years. Army leaders recently warned that they were experiencing shortfalls or more than 30% in certain key combat specialties (anesthesia and critical care). Air Force Nurse Corps leaders testified earlier this year that their 15% nursing shortage was “gravely concerning.”

Current funding levels fail to meet the growing need for nurses. In FY 2006, HRSA was forced to turn away 85% of the applicants for the Nurse Education Loan Repayment Program, and 96% of the applicants for the Nursing Scholarship program due to inadequate funding; this resulted in 10,000 applicants being turned away from programs designed to direct RNs into facilities with the most critical nursing shortages.

Complicating the problem further, faculty shortages at nursing schools across the country are limiting student capacity at a time when the need for professional registered nurses continues to grow. While there was a 10.5% increase in baccalaureate and graduate nursing school enrollments from 2005 to 2006, last year schools of nursing still turned away 42,866 qualified applicants from these programs primarily due to a shortage of nurse faculty. Current funding to increase the pool of nurse educators does not meet this demand. In FY 2006, schools of nursing requested more than three times the funds available in the Title VIII Nurse Faculty Loan Program to educate new nurse faculty.

Federal funding for the Title VIII programs has decreased over the last three fiscal years –while at the same time the nursing and nursing faculty shortages have continued unabated. As a nation we cannot sustain our health care system without sufficient investment in our nursing workforce. As such, we urge you to help ensure that we adequately address the shortage and bolster the health care system by making this the year that you boost funding for Title VIII programs. We thank you in advance for maintaining the full $20 million increase in funding for Title VIII contained in S. 1710.  

Sincerely,

American Association of Colleges of Nursing
American Association of Critical-Care Nurses
American Association of Nurse Anesthetists
American Nephrology Nurses' Association
American Nurses Association
Association of Rehabilitation Nurses
Association of Women's Health, Obstetric & Neonatal Nurses
Emergency Nurses Association
National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists
National Association of School Nurses
Oncology Nursing Society