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Kentucky facing a nursing shortage; Bellarmine adds new program to assist

In a sample of about 800 nurses in Kentucky, one in four nurses responded that it would be likely they would leave their jobs in the next three months.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Kentucky is on the verge of, if not already at, a crisis when it comes to having enough nurses.

The Kentucky Nurses Association conducted a survey this month to identify what is most important to nurses in the workforce.

In a sample of about 800 nurses in Kentucky, one in four nurses responded that it would be likely they would leave their jobs in the next three months. With about 88,000 nurses in the state, that is a huge loss for the workforce.

Some of the reasons nurses identified they were unhappy with their jobs include insufficient staff, which led to a heavy patient load, lack of support from management or administration, exhaustion, and not enough pay or financial incentives.

Travel nursing, instead of working for a local hospital, has become more attractive, and that’s been taking away from the pool of available nurses in Kentucky.

“We have states like New York, Texas, surrounding states as well as California who are coming to get our nurses, they are poaching Kentucky nurses," Kentucky Nurses Association CEO Delanor Manson said. "We have to do our part to retain those nurses, to get them to stay local and work local.”

Nurses are leaving to travel because these contracts offer higher pay. The Kentucky Nurses Association is proposing $100 million for financial solutions to the nursing shortage.

That money would go towards improving faculty retention and recruitment in nursing schools, loan forgiveness for nurses who work in underserved areas, retention bonuses for nurses who stay local, and a recruitment and marketing campaign.

Right now, seats in nursing schools across Kentucky are going unfilled. One local university is hoping to help alleviate the shortage and fill more seats.

Bellarmine University offers a one year accelerated nursing program to students who have already completed a bachelor’s degree. The program typically starts in May and ends the same month.

But in January, a new class of students will begin the program. The university added an additional class to get more nurses into the workforce quicker.

“We’ve definitely seen an interest,” Lori Minton, the director of the program, said. “In fact, we were only going to start taking 30 but our interest has grown so much we’ve decided to increase that to 50.”

At Bellarmine, many graduates go on to work at Louisville area hospitals.

“We have a lot of our students who come here from other states to do our program and then a lot of times stay here and work because they’ve made some relationships with the hospitals,” Minton said.

That’s great news for local hospitals. The shortage means there are many open jobs for nurses right now locally. In May and January – there will be a new group of nurses eager to fill those spots.

RELATED: Bellarmine University to add January start to accelerated nursing program

RELATED: Nursing schools see applications rise, despite COVID burnout

Contact reporter Rose McBride at rmcbride@whas11.com or on Facebook or Twitter. 

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