TRENTON – Senator Joseph F. Vitale, D-Middlesex, and Chairman of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee, issued the following statement today regarding the panel’s hearing on the shortage of nurses and nursing faculty members in the Garden State:
“Quality nurses are at the very backbone of any good health care system. They serve on the front-lines, providing care and compassion to patients seeking medical care and seniors seeking dignity and long-term care in their twilight years. They also sometimes serve as the first – and usually, most significant – contact for worried family members trying to get the best care possible for their sick loved ones.
“However, due to a confluence of events – including low wages for nursing educators and professionals in the field, an aging nursing workforce approaching retirement, and a lack of faculty members to train the next generation of nurses – New Jersey hospitals, health care facilities and nursing homes face a massive shortage in nurses that is going to get worse unless we take action.
“At the core of the nursing shortage is a shortage of nursing educators to prepare future generations of potential nurses for the job at hand. Each year, hundreds, if not thousands, of eager potential nurses are turned away, because there simply aren’t enough faculty members to teach them the trade.
“Last year, the Senate Health Committee and the Senate Budget Committee both approved S-626, a bill designed to establish a loan redemption program for nursing students who commit to becoming full-time nursing educators. The bill would divert a small, fixed percentage of the existing primary care physician and dentist loan redemption program, making it budget-neutral – a fact that is very important given the State’s current budgetary difficulties.
“The bill is pending consideration by the full Senate, and must go through the review process in the Assembly.
“This loan redemption program is one small part in combating the nursing shortage in New Jersey, but it will go a long way to allow young people who want to go into the nursing field to receive the education they need to succeed. Ultimately, we’re going to have to engage all stakeholders, including business interests, the health care community, public leaders and educators, to find long-term solutions to the shortage in nurses.
“The viability and success of New Jersey’s health care delivery system depends on the availability of well-trained nurses. We all have to do our part to make sure those nurses receive access to the education they need to be successful, and that our health care facilities have access to an educated and dependable nursing workforce for many years to come.”