FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear has declared an emergency over the state's chronic nursing shortage amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
On Thursday, Beshear signed an executive order aimed at boosting enrollment in nurse-training programs. This comes after he announced a 10% pay raise for state social workers earlier this week.
Beshear said Kentucky is operating at 12%-20% short of needed nursing staff, with the state projecting the need for more than 16,000 additional nurses by 2024.
Health leaders said nurses are quitting or retiring, exhausted or demoralized by the current health crisis, with many leaving for lucrative temporary jobs with traveling-nurse agencies.
"This threatens not only the health of patients, but the entire health care delivery system," Beshear said. "We've got to do things a little differently to make sure we get the results we need at the time that we need them most."
Kentucky's nurse shortage reflects a national epidemic created by the pandemic.
His executive order requires the Kentucky Board of Nursing (KBN) to approve requests for enrollment increases from schools that have the resources to accommodate more students.
It also requires nursing schools to report vacancies every month to the board.
Those vacancies will be posted on the Board of Nursing's website, allowing schools at full capacity to refer applicants to schools with programs that have open seats.
Under this order, schools can also open new campuses much quicker, as long as they have the available resources.
It also allows nurses licensed in other states to come practice in Kentucky during this emergency.
"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," Kelly Jenkins, executive director of the KBN, said.
"I want to thank the Governor for listening to the voices of nurses," Jenkins said.