'We're at a critical point': Kentucky's nursing shortage addressed in SB 10

nursing home shortage
Posted at 5:25 PM, Feb 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-23 17:49:00-05

FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — A problem that’s been brewing for more than a decade, and reached a fever pitch during the pandemic, is now at a critical level. The state of Kentucky is running out of nurses of all kinds, in all areas of our healthcare system, be it in hospitals, specialist offices, or assisted living facilities.

“We’re at a critical point where we have to address how we’re going to get more nurses to work,” said Delanor Manson, the CEO of the Kentucky Nurses Association.

Manson said nurses just aren’t compensated well enough, nor appreciated as much as they should be, and those are just two of the factors that have led to the shortage.

“Many are reaching retirement age. The average age of a nurse is 51,” Mrs. Manson stated after offering testimony during a committee hearing on SB-10.

SB-10 aims to eliminate some of the barriers nurses face when practicing or attempting to practice in Kentucky. The bill passed unanimously through the committee and will head to the Senate floor for a full vote. But even if it passes, some of the same obstacles could remain in the way.

“We need more (nursing) faculty, we need well-educated faculty, and we need well-paid faculty,” Manson said while describing the problem inside Kentucky’s nursing colleges, where roughly 1,700 seats are unfilled.

Manson and bill co-sponsors Senator Robby Mills (R-4th) and Senate President, Robert Stivers (R-25th), pointed to other problems that the language in SB-10 would alleviate, such as providing an easier path to working in Kentucky for out-of-state Registered Nurses whose registration is in good standing. Still, there are other hurdles to attracting and retaining skilled nurses.

“Advanced Practice Nurses are now under a restriction for prescription authority. Many of them are working outside of Kentucky because they can perform at the highest level of their licensure and education,” Manson explained. “There are greater than 24 states that allow advanced practice RNs to do that, and we are not one of them. We need to be one of them,” she continued.

Manson said allowing such could ultimately return up to 2,000 nurses to the Bluegrass, on top of the roughly 1,500 she knows of around the state who could be enticed to come out of retirement in exchange for better pay, and shorter shift hours.