Responding to a critical shortage within their health care workforce, the governors of Connecticut and New York have announced initiatives designed to attract new students and expand the ability to prepare them for service.
Each of the two states has taken a slightly different approach. The state of New York is prioritizing economic needs. Its Nurses for Our Future program hopes to expand the state’s number of nurses by offering full tuition to scholarship winners enrolled in both Associate Degree in Nursing and Bachelor of Science in Nursing programs. Connecticut’s CT Health Horizons”program will address the shortage of both nurses and behavioral health providers through a combination of tuition assistance, recruitment and retention of faculty, and innovative job placement partnerships.
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Two initiatives with the same end goal
Both Connecticut and New York are facing significant shortages in healthcare workers. New York currently has more than 9,300 openings for registered nurses in the state, while a 2020 report by Connecticut’s Governor’s Workforce Council reported that 52% of the state’s registered nurses are over the age of 50 and that there would be a need for 3,000 new RNs per year, while Connecticut’s schools only have the capacity to graduate 1,900 per year. Each state has taken its own approach to the dilemma.
In New York, Governor Kathy Hochul recently announced the winners of the Nurses for Our Future Scholarship Program. The program was introduced in December of 2021, inviting people to apply for 1,000 scholarships for the State University of New York and the City University of New York. These scholarships will cover four full-time semesters of tuition for flexible part-time or full-time students to become nurses.The 1,000 winners were New York State licensed nurses with Associate’s degrees, New York State residents seeking ADN degrees, and out-of-state licensed nurses who will relocate and practice in New York State to earn a BSN. To win the scholarship, participants completed an online entry.
In Connecticut, Governor Ned Lamont announced a three-year program that will similarly address the state’s critical healthcare workforce shortage. CT Health Horizons will take a three-pronged approach. It will 1) provide tuition assistance to attract low-income and minority students to accelerated nursing and social work programs, 2) recruit new faculty and incentivize the retention of existing faculty in order to train and educate a greater number of nurses, and 3) create pathways between nursing schools and employers to promote greater hiring of graduates. The Connecticut program represents a partnership between Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU), the Office of Workforce Strategy (OWS), multiple state agencies, the University of Connecticut (UConn), the Connecticut Conference of Independent Colleges (CCIC), and the Connecticut Hospital Association. It is being funded through the federal American Rescue Plan Act.
Lawmakers, workforce advocates, and healthcare administrators express optimism for programs
The need for more skilled nurses is critical to meeting current and future needs, and the governors of both states expressed enthusiasm for the new programs. In announcing the 1,000 scholarship winners, Governor Hochul said, “This scholarship will go a long way in strengthening the workforce with individuals who are ready to begin their education and training.” Her optimism was echoed by Assembly member Deborah J. Glick, who said, “I’m excited for this first cohort of Nurses for Our Future scholars to receive an exceptional and tuition-free education at our SUNY and CUNY schools, and I wish them every success as they prepare to care for New Yorkers in the future.”
The President of the New York State Nurses Association, President Nancy Hagans, RN, BSN, CCRN, made it plain that investing in attracting and training nurses would have a direct impact on the quality of care, saying, “The Nurses for Our Future Scholarship program will help attract and train more nurses to help New York’s health care facilities staff more safely. Investing in the nursing workforce now is one part of the solution to deliver quality care for all New Yorkers into the future.”
Because Connecticut faces the challenge of a shortfall in the capacity to educate more nurses, a significant portion of the state’s investment will be concentrated on increasing the educational supply. Governor Lamont explained, “By making this investment, we are taking a critical step toward expanding the number of nursing seats at our public and private institutions of higher education.” The Connecticut program aims to provide financial assistance to 1,200 incoming nursing and social work students, and particularly to those entering AND, Accelerated BSN, and MSW programs. At the same time, by retaining and adding more faculty, it is hoped that Connecticut schools will be able to accept 1,000 more students each year.
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- “Connecticut Faces ‘Unprecedented’ Nursing Shortage, National Trend.” CT Examiner. Accessed August 13, 2022.
- “FACT SHEET: Biden-Harris Administration to Invest $7 Billion from American Rescue Plan to Hire and Train Public Health Workers in Response to COVID-19.” Whitehouse.gov. Accessed August 13, 2022.
- “Governor Hochul Announces Nearly 1,000 New Future Nurses as Part of Ongoing Efforts to Strengthen and Bolster New York State Health Care Workforce.” New York State. Accessed August 13, 2022.
- “Governor Lamont Announces Launch of Higher Education Program To Increase Opportunities for Aspiring Nurses and Social Workers.” Connecticut’s Official State Website. Accessed August 13, 2022.
- “Nurses For Our Future Scholarships will fund the education of 1,000 new nurses in New York.” New York State Public Employees Federation. Accessed August 13, 2022.