FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 7, 2001
"He will direct specific effort toward Border
AUSTIN, TX--Today state Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, attended a press conference announcing a bill filed by state Sen. Mike Moncrief, D-Fort Worth, that proposes to alleviate the nursing shortage crisis.
As co-author of Senate Bill 572, Sen. Lucio joins Sen. Moncrief, chairman of the Health and Human Services Committee, in his efforts and adds his concern of this dire situation for the Border area he represents, the lower Rio Grande Valley.
Sen. Lucio said, "I am concerned about the shortage of nurses all along the Border region. With the projected population increase in the Border region, this bill becomes a timely vehicle to address the nurse services needs of the region."
Since the average age of nurses is 44, it is estimated that by 2020 most of the nurses currently working will retire. Texas would have to add more than 27,000 nurses to meet current staffing needs. The future for the Border appears even bleaker without some intervention. For example, the average number of registered nurses is 644.9 per 100,000 people, but for the Border region that figure is around 500.
Critical to meeting the state's nursing shortages is sufficient faculty to train them. On the Border, the average age of nursing faculty members is 50 years. This spring semester, South Texas Community College (STCC) in McAllen canceled its plans to add another Registered Nurses class because no qualified faculty applicants applied. The main reason for the faculty shortage is the excessively low pay, especially along the Border.
SB 572 would create The Nursing Shortage Reduction Act, which would do the following:
- Provide funds to increase enrollment capacity in nursing schools over the next five years to 10,000 by 2007 (double the current nursing school capacity).
- Create a grant program at the Higher Education Coordinating Board for nursing schools to enroll additional students; retain faculty and encourage innovation to recruit and retain students.
- Allow the Board to receive and spend grant funds from other sources, such as public donation.
- Allow students who move to Texas to pursue a master's or higher degree in nursing to obtain in-state tuition if they demonstrate intent to teach in a Texas nursing program.
- Establish a loan repayment, scholarship or matching fund grant to students who intend to practice nursing in part of the state where nurses are needed or who intend to join nursing faculty.
- Take a pro-active step in creating a Nursing Workforce Data Center to track trends in the nursing profession and help us address shortages before they reach the crisis level.
"I want to see that any funding and program expansion for nursing takes the needs of the Border into highest consideration, particularly since the Border is the state's area that is most medically underserved," added Sen. Lucio, chairman of the Senate Committee on Border Affairs. "Sen. Moncrief should be highly commended for finally bringing this issue to the forefront. His vision and leadership role, as chairman of the Committee on Health and Human Services, will afford us the opportunity to explore areas in health care and health care delivery that we have not done so in the past."
Note: Staffer assigned to health issues is Ms. Bridget Sharphorn, clerk for Subcommittee on Border Affairs.