Statement of the New York State Nurses Association before the joint hearing of Assembly Ways & Means and Senate Finance Committees, 7 February 2006.
The New York State Nurses Association is the professional association representing the interests of over 200,000 licensed registered nurses in New York State. As the oldest and largest union for registered nurses in the state, NYSNA is the collective bargaining agent for more than 30,000 RNs working at more than 150 facilities, including hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, home care agencies, hospices, schools, and public health agencies. Thank you for the opportunity to present testimony today on the Governor’s proposed budget related to health issues.
NYSNA is concerned with a number of the Governor’s budget proposals and the impact they will have both on registered nurses and the patients they serve.
The Center for Health Workforce Studies conducts an annual survey of nursing schools in New York State to examine the trends affecting the supply of registered nurses in the state. The latest survey in 2004 revealed the 57% of nursing programs reported turning away qualified applicants. In real numbers, between 1,700 and 2,800 qualified applicants were denied admission to nursing programs. When asked why programs turned away qualified applicants, 77% cited lack of faculty as the primary reason. Other reasons cited were lack of training sites and classroom space.
Last year, the Senate advocated for and the legislature included $2 million in the budget to address the nursing faculty shortage, establishing the Patricia K. McGee nursing faculty scholarship and nursing faculty loan forgiveness program for individuals who commit to becoming nurse educators. NYSNA is pleased that the Governor has included this money in his 2006-07 budget proposal.
Regulations for the scholarship and loan forgiveness program were effective October 27, 2005. I am pleased to report that 85 individuals applied for the scholarship program. The $600,000 allocated for scholarships only supported 30 of the 85 applicants. The deadline for the loan forgiveness program was January 7, 2006. The Higher Education Services Corporation received 48 applicants, all of whom can be supported through the $1.4 million allocated.
Nurse educators typically earn substantially less than other master’s-prepared RNs. Scholarship incentives would make the nurse teaching profession more attractive to those who otherwise could not afford the risk.
Due to the dire need for faculty and strong interest in the Patricia K. McGee nursing faculty scholarship program, we urge the Senate and Assembly to increase funding for faculty scholarships.
While funding for nurse educators is a critical first step, it addresses only part of the current nursing shortage crisis. According to a 2002 report by the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration, New York is projected to have a shortage of over 17,000 registered nurses in 2010 and 30,000 by 2015. The average age of a registered nurse in New York is 47, and more than one-third of New York’s RNs are 55 or older.
The state must provide scholarship incentives to potential nursing students in order to increase entry into the profession. In addition, educational institutions desperately need funding to establish and/or to expand existing nursing programs. Nursing education is costly; creating and maintaining laboratory space for training and providing sufficient oversight in clinical settings is cost-prohibitive for many schools. Since 2000, nursing schools, such as Syracuse University and Niagara University, have closed their doors, and other educational institutions, such as the University of Rochester and Keuka College, have eliminated their generic baccalaureate nursing programs.
Last year, the Senate and Assembly unanimously passed, and the Governor signed into law, legislation that establishes a two-year, six-region demonstration program to collect evidence-based data in New York State to improve the health and safety of New York’s healthcare workforce and patients during patient handling. NYSNA is extremely disappointed that the Governor’s budget does not include funding to support this demonstration program. We have estimated the cost at $2.1 million for six facility-wide demonstrations. We urge the legislature to work with the Governor to fully fund the state’s first safe patient handling program.
NYSNA is strongly opposed to the Governor’s proposed $1.3 billion in cuts to Medicaid and cuts to Family Health Plus beneficiaries. Specifically:
NYSNA is pleased that the Governor has proposed increasing funding for anti-tobacco programs to $95 million, which will allow the state to support anti-smoking programs, including counter-advertising and community- and school-based education programs. Adequate funding for the tobacco control program is essential to lowering healthcare costs from tobacco-related illness and saving the lives of those struggling with this addiction.
As you continue your deliberation on the state budget, we urge you to ensure that New York consumers’ healthcare access and quality are not lost in an effort to contain costs.
For more information, contact Governmental Affairs at 518.782.9400, ext. 283 or by e-mail.