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Grants to KY Colleges Aimed at Boosting Health-Care Workforce

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Monday, July 25, 2022   

A shortage of nurses and medical technicians has left communities across the Commonwealth struggling to meet health care demands. In response, the state's education board has launched a new initiative aimed at increasing the number of students entering health care fields.

State lawmakers have pledged $10 million dollars to participating colleges and universities.

Aaron Thompson, president of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, said the money will be distributed through grants at technical and community schools and four-year colleges, and said institutions must have a degree-to-work pipeline in place for students.

"They have to have a partnership with these employers who are willing to put their skin in the game," Thompson explained. "Many of our health care agencies are putting forth faculty that have to come to campuses, they're putting their money in scholarships."

According to state data, Kentucky's health care facilities are operating 12% to 20% under needed nursing staff. The state is expected to need more than 16,000 additional nurses by 2024.

Thompson pointed out rural areas in particular need innovative ways to attract faculty and improve academic support, resources and clinical experiences for students.

"It is though a process of building good clinical opportunities," Thompson noted. "We have to expand our ways of thinking about clinical opportunities, and just the traditional way of doing it."

He added electronic records, mental health and therapeutic and rehabilitation services are also seeing staff shortages, while at the same time, the state is seeing the number of high school seniors entering college dwindling.

He argued community colleges are especially suited to step in and fill the gap.

"The other part, too, is that they provide most of the dual credit here in Kentucky, so we can start that pipeline early for dual credit courses," Thompson emphasized. "We can do it all around the state."

The shortage of health care professionals also is affecting neighboring regions. According to a survey released last year by the American Association of Critical Care Nurses, more than 90% of nurses said the pandemic has depleted nurses at their hospitals and, as a result, their careers will be shorter than they intended.

Support for this reporting was provided by Lumina Foundation.


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