Oregon needs more financial aid for nursing students and more educators, experts say

Nursing school deans and nursing students discussed the barriers they face with U.S. Representative Suzanne Bonamici, D-Oregon.

Nurses work at a mobile vaccination clinic in Salem (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)

According to nursing students and deans of Oregon nursing schools, more scholarships and possibly tax credits would help stem the shortage of nurses in Oregon.

In an hour-long online chat Wednesday, they told U.S. Representative Suzanne Bonamici, D-Oregon, that having enough money to pay for housing, food and other necessities and paying for their education is one of the biggest hurdles students face in nursing. school. Even those who receive Pell grants or federal funding through Title VIII, which prohibits discrimination in institutions, can find themselves in large debts when they graduate.

“I don’t think we can overstate the importance of Title VIII funding,” said Susan Bakewell-Sachs, dean of the school of nursing at Oregon Health & Science University. She said that in fiscal year 2021, Oregon students received about $2.6 million from those funds.

“We are a state that directly benefits from this,” Bakewell-Sachs said.

Oregon needs to train more nurses to meet demand. The state employment department estimates that Oregon needs to train 2,500 nurses a year to have enough staff to treat patients. Hundreds are missing. Health care systems have relied on recruiting nurses from out of state, but this source is dwindling.

Bonamici said she cares deeply about the nursing shortage in Oregon. She is co-vice-chair of the House Nursing Caucus and sits on the Education and Labor Committee. She said she especially wanted to hear from the students.

Jacob Goeringer, a nursing student at George Fox University in Newberg, said during the discussion that the pandemic has strengthened his commitment to nursing.

“It actually increased my desire to continue in this course and make a positive impact in my community,” Goeringer said. “We need nurses.

But he says he struggled to get financial help.

“There weren’t a lot of external scholarships available to me — even as a minority, being a male in the nursing profession,” Goeringer said.

Educators said Oregon also needs more teachers. The discussion included three educators: Bakewell-Sachs; Pam Fifer, associate dean of nursing at George Fox University in Newberg; and Linda Campbell, dean of the Warner Pacific University School of Nursing in Portland. Jana Bitton, executive director of the Oregon Center for Nursing at the University of Portland, also participated.

At George Fox, the dean and associate dean of nursing have to teach due to a shortage of faculty, Fifer said.

According to the nursing center, Oregon’s associate and license programs graduated just over 1,400 nurses in 2014. That number grew to nearly 1,800 by 2021. But the number of faculty both years remained at 720.

“Scholarships and student aid are important, but we won’t be able to increase the number of graduate nurses in the state without solving the challenges we’re having recruiting nursing faculty,” Bitton told the Capital Chronicle. after the discussion. “We need to be more intentional about our solutions to nursing education capacity and take a more collaborative approach to developing our healthcare workforce with industry leaders and government agencies.” The state is struggling to attract enough faculty members because of salary, they said. . Nurses make more money working in a hospital or clinic than teaching.

This means that even nurses with a passion for teaching often do not pursue an academic career.

“I know several great nurse educators who have said, ‘I have to go back to the bedside,'” Fifer said. “They were the main breadwinner in their family and they couldn’t afford the salary of a nurse educator.”

Bakewell-Sachs said a federal center devoted to nursing education, increasing the number of nursing faculty and the number of clinicians supervising nursing students would help.

The shortage of nurses has reduced clinical opportunities for students, experts say. With the current shortage of all healthcare staff, nurses say they often have to answer the phone, bring meals to patients or perform other tasks they normally wouldn’t do. This leaves them little time to supervise the students.

Still, students need clinical experience to graduate. The University of Portland has a mock clinic on campus to give students experience.

Childcare is another barrier, students said.

Itai Muszongo, a nursing student at Warner Pacific University, has two children. Pursuing her nursing education has been particularly difficult during the pandemic, she said.

“I was homeschooling my kids and I guess I was homeschooling myself, trying to keep up with my homework, trying to keep up with their homework,” Muszongo said. “It was a hell of a jugglery.”

She said there were more daycares now, but it was expensive.

Anna Abel, a nursing student at OHSU, has a daughter in kindergarten. She said the only way to stay in school during the pandemic was to use OHSU’s daycare. Now she struggles to find care after her daughter’s school day.

“After-school care is so difficult to integrate. We are on a long waiting list,” Abel said.

Bonamici said work-study programs are needed to enable students to pursue careers in nursing.

“We need fewer barriers, not more barriers,” Bonamici said.

She said her policy priorities include increasing Pell grants and forgiving more federal loans. But Fifer said loan forgiveness is not the answer to solving the teacher shortage.

“It doesn’t work for all teachers because I think it’s income-based,” Fifer said.

She proposed tax credits as a way to give more money to educators.

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