UPDATE: Nursing shortage declared ’emergency’, local health officials weigh in

Executive order opens doors to school expansions, nurses from other states

UPDATE: LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Governor Beshear’s executive order comes as the state and country face a nursing shortage, that’s only grown due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

“So much of this of what we are facing today and what we have faced for decades is absolutely preventable” said Janie Heath.

University of Kentucky’s College of Nursing Dean, Janie Heath, says the shortage is a critical concern, and she’s glad to see the governor take action.

For Dean Heath, key issues are nursing and faculty retirement. She says half of the working nurse force is expected to retire by 2030, that’s approximately 2 million registered nurses.

She says funding resources, and support is also important issues.

“It shows that he and others are actually reaching out to hear and respect the voice of nursing, we’ve got the answers. We just need to be able to be heard and be a part of the solution” said Heath.

Steps the State plans to take to combat the nursing shortage include educating more nurses by requiring schools to admit more students into nursing schools.

A step the college of nursing is well ahead of…having been pre- approved for 300 new undergraduate nursing students starting in the fall…with hopes of expanding to 600 in the next couple of years.

“It shows though how important they are not only on our day to day care but especially during this emergency, nurses are at the fore front of running this” said Kevin Hall with the Lexington Fayette County Health Department.

Baptist Health Kentucky says the order will jump start the process of educating and hiring more nurses, saying

“Gov. Andy Beshear’s declaration of the current nursing shortage as an emergency is a welcome step that will allow the state’s nursing schools to enroll more students and nurses licensed in other states to practice in the Commonwealth. Other states have enacted similar measures to help relieve the nursing shortage which has been exacerbated by the effects of COVID, prompting some to retire early and others to leave the profession. Nursing needs an infusion of compassionate people of all ages and backgrounds who seek a well-respected, well-paying job with purpose and meaning. This executive order will help jump start that process.”

“These are some immediate actions that we believe will provide some relief, obviously long term” said Governor Beshear.

The executive order also allows nurses licensed in other states to work in Kentucky.
And, includes nurses in the hero pay for essential workers, adding that eligible nurses can expect loan forgiveness as well.

“Nurses who are out there, thank you, but also know that we need you more than ever across Kentucky” said Hall.

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (ORIGINAL STORY) (WTVQ) – The governor declared the state’s nursing shortage a “state of emergency” Thursday, removing some barriers to increased enrollment in nursing programs and opening ways to fill teaching and staffing spots.

Gov. Andy Beshear also noted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a request from Pfizer to allow individuals as young as 16 to get a Pfizer booster shot. He said the next step is to wait for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to approve. Like adults, 16- and 17-year-olds would need to wait six months after getting their second vaccine dose before getting a booster.

“This is great news, especially after the update yesterday morning on the effectiveness of the booster. Pfizer released preliminary data that suggests a booster provides a strong defense against the delta variant, which is still enemy No. 1 here in Kentucky,” said Gov. Beshear. “The data also shows a booster appears to provide real protection against the omicron variant.”

Kentucky’s COVID-19 indicators have continued to increase making vaccinations and boosters even more important: the week ending Dec. 5, the average test positivity rate was 9.02% and 15,875 new cases were reported.

The governor also said Wednesday alone more than 10,000 Kentuckians got their booster shot. In addition, 61% of all Kentuckians have gotten at least their first vaccine dose.

As of today, 664,339 Kentuckians have had a vaccination booster, approximately 15% of the population.

Beshear said, even before the pandemic hit nursing shortages were a problem, and now, the situation is dire.

“This threatens not only the health of patients, but the entire health care delivery system,” said Beshear. “We’ve got to do things a little bit differently to make sure we get the results we need at the time that we need them the most.”

Kentucky is currently operating at 12%-20% short of needed nursing staff, and the state is projected to need more than 16,000 additional nurses by 2024.

In response, Beshear signed an executive order declaring Kentucky’s nursing shortage in the midst of a deadly global pandemic is an emergency.

Through this order, Kentucky nursing schools will be able to enroll more students. The order will require the Kentucky Board of Nursing to approve requests for enrollment increases for schools that show sufficient resources to handle more students.

The order also requires schools to report vacant student seats to the Board of Nursing every month. The Board will post those vacancies on its website. This will allow schools without vacancies to refer applicants to schools with programs that have open seats.

Under this order, nursing schools in the next month will send a list of faculty needed to reach full enrollment to the Board of Nursing, the Governor’s Office and the Council on Postsecondary Education.

Also under this order: Existing schools that want to open new campuses can do so much more quickly, as long as they have sufficient resources. Under this order, a new campus will be considered an enrollment increase to an existing program, which offers significant savings of time and money. Schools that want to open new campuses alone or as a joint venture can take advantage of this important provision.

The order also allows nurses licensed in other states to come to Kentucky to practice in this emergency. Further, it creates the Team Kentucky Nursing Advisory Committee, which will be composed of individuals with experience in education, health care and nursing, to propose additional solutions for addressing Kentucky’s nursing shortage.

“I want to thank the Governor for listening to the voices of nurses,” said Kelly Jenkins, executive director of the Kentucky Board of Nursing. “We’ve been working diligently to place these emergency orders into effect since the pandemic started and to try to recruit more nurses from other states. We thank the Governor for working with us.”

Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet Awarded $5.3 Million from American Rescue Plan Act
As part of the federal American Rescue Plan Act’s Travel, Tourism and Outdoor Recreation State Grant program, the commonwealth has been awarded $5.3 million to further position its expanding tourism industry to be an economic driver for Kentucky.

To foster economic recovery in every corner of the commonwealth, the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet will directly award this crucial funding support to destination marketing organizations and the commonwealth’s nine tourism regions.

“My thanks Secretary Mike Berry and everyone at the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet for all the work that goes into securing and distributing these funds,” said Gov. Beshear. “And congratulations to the businesses and workers across the commonwealth who will benefit as our tourism industry continues to grow.”

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