Can Kentucky lawmakers use legislation to overcome nursing shortage? They think they can.

Published 9:33 pm Tuesday, March 1, 2022

The Kentucky Senate took aim Tuesday at overcoming a chronic nursing shortage by boosting enrollment in nursing schools and luring out-of-state nurses into the state’s workforce.

The measure cleared the Senate on a 36-0 vote and advances to the House.

Kentucky has faced a shortage of nurses for years but the problem worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic. Late last year, Gov. Andy Beshear declared the state’s nursing shortage to be an emergency. The governor pointed to projections that Kentucky will need more than 16,000 additional nurses by 2024 to help fill gaps caused by retirements and people leaving the profession.

The bill winding through the legislature aims to lift enrollment limits in nursing programs and accelerate licensing for out-of-state nurses to work in Kentucky.

The goal is to “bring some relief to the nursing profession and is intended to prevent a crisis like this from happening again,” said Republican Sen. Robby Mills, the bill’s lead sponsor.

Under the proposal, enrollment limits would be lifted for nursing programs with at least an 80% average rate of students who passed the licensure exam in the previous three years.

The measure would accelerate the process for nurses from other states or countries to get licensed in Kentucky without compromising the standard of care, Mills said.

“These changes are to allow qualified nurses to get to work quickly in the state of Kentucky, and to remove any red tape that could be slowing down the license approval,” he said.