To ease Virginia’s nursing shortage, Virginia community colleges are asking state legislators for $26 million over two years to double the number of their nursing graduates.
Without an investment to boost nursing programs, the Virginia Community College System will not be able to fill high-demand nursing jobs by producing more work-ready graduates, said Dr. Patti Lisk, dean of nursing and of Health Technology at Germanna Community College.
VCCS officials and Virginia health care administrators say the state’s nursing industry is in crisis, compounded by strains imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Hospitals, physician groups and facilities for assisted living, long-term care, behavioral health and skilled nursing have a severe shortage of nurses across the Commonwealth,” the gatekeeper said on Monday. – VCCS spokesperson, Jeff Kraus. “This crisis has been going on for many years, although COVID-19 has compounded the impact and strained the provider network in ways that have further highlighted the lack of nursing capacity. Simply put, this is a crisis that transcends geography, provider types and health care settings, leaving a nursing workforce that cannot meet Virginia’s needs.
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If the General Assembly approves the colleges’ request in its winter 2022 session, $2 million of the state increase would go to Germanna, which serves eight communities in the Culpeper and Fredericksburg areas.
Germanna has one of the largest and most respected nursing programs in Virginia, and the VCCS plan would roughly double in size. Nineteen of Virginia’s 23 community colleges offer RN training programs.
State Sen. Ghazala Hashmi, D-Powhatan and Dels. Cliff Hayes, D-Chesapeake, and Mark Sickles, D-Fairfax, introduced budget amendments to increase nursing capacity in Virginia. All three are members of the Legislature‘s Joint Committee on Health Care, which endorsed the colleges’ proposal.
The nation’s critical nursing shortage is fueled by a spike in baby boomer retirements overlapping with a wave of nurses exhausted by the COVID-19 pandemic leaving the profession, care administrators say Health and Georgetown University.
Within six years, the Virginia Employment Commission projects that the Commonwealth will need more than 10,000 additional nurses, or 7,746 registered nurses and 2,550 licensed practical nurses.
If community colleges cannot increase their training capacity, the system will fall far short of this number of nursing graduates.
In 2019, the Virginia Community College System graduated 1,593 candidates for nursing licensing exams.
If the legislature funds its initiative, by 2028, community colleges will increase Virginia’s nursing workforce by 3,500 graduates each year, Ellen Davenport, deputy vice chancellor of the VCCS, said Monday. This would include 1,700 additional registered nurses, 1,000 additional licensed practical nurses and 800 additional certified practical nurses, Davenport said.
The project would also provide salary increases in line with national averages and market-based compensation for current nursing faculty, the addition of new faculty members at competitive salary rates, the renovation of nursing laboratories new colleges and equipment where nursing programs are offered, Davenport said.
In 2020, Germanna trained 176 nurses, including registered nurses, licensed practical nurses and certified nurse aides, Dr. Lisk said. The VCCS proposal would increase that number to 432 nurses a year, she said.
Germanna’s share of the additional state appropriation would add evening and weekend programs and rent space for expanded training. Nurse education would increase at Germanna’s Locust Grove campus in Orange County and at its Barbara J. Fried Center in Stafford County.
To meet statewide demand and pave the way for well-paying healthcare jobs, community colleges are proposing to expand capacity by renovating and equipping new nursing labs in seven regions: Northern Virginia, Hampton Roads, Greater Richmond, Southside Virginia, Southwestern Virginia, Shenandoah Valley and Fredericksburg, Culpeper and Stafford area.
Community colleges believe they will also need to increase classroom capacity and purchase new equipment to accommodate the larger enrollments.
Each year, community colleges in Virginia admit more than 2,000 new students seeking an Associate of Applied Science in Nursing. Another 1,400 are admitted to the licensed practical nurse and certified nurse aide programs.
More than 3,000 of the people who apply to these programs are left on waiting lists or refused each year due to the limited number of places available, according to the Virginia Community College System. Many of these students come from historically underserved and low-income communities.
Virginia healthcare workers make up 10% of all jobs in the Commonwealth.
Germanna Community College has approximately 13,000 students, including those in degree programs and workforce training. The college serves Culpeper, Orange, Madison, Stafford, Spotsylvania, Caroline, and King George counties and the city of Fredericksburg.