PASSHE takes action to address crucial nursing shortage

Ed Gruver//March 20, 2023

PASSHE takes action to address crucial nursing shortage

Ed Gruver//March 20, 2023

To address a critical nursing shortage, Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) is seeking $112 million in state funding to train more students in six in-demand, high-growth jobs, including nurses and physician assistants. 

PASSHE universities would use $12.5 million of the $112 million request to create a stronger pipeline of nurses and physician assistants from the classroom to the workforce. To save high-need students and average of $5,000 per year, the universities would use $7 million to provide direct financial aid to nursing and physician assistant students. 

The remaining $5.5 million would be used to expand high-cost nursing programs. 

Reducing the financial cost to obtain a degree is a crucial step toward enabling more people to start their education to become nurses and physician assistants. Affordability is particularly important for urban and rural students to have the chance to work at healthcare facilities and hospitals and ease the significant labor shortages the nursing industry is experiencing. 

The shortage of nurses and assistant physicians is severely straining the ability of Pennsylvania’s healthcare system to provide patient care. A recent industry survey in Pennsylvania found vacancy rates of 32% for certified registered nurse (RN) practitioners and nursing support staff, 30% for registered nurses providing direct care, and 17% for clinical nurse specialists. 

As baby boomers age and require increased health care, the shortage of frontline workers is expected to worsen. According to the 2020 National Nursing Workforce Survey conducted by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, the median age of RNs is 52, indicating a potential wave of retirements within the next 15 years. 

Healthcare is the System’s third largest academic program with more than 11,000 students, including 4,680 nursing and physician assistant students, and more than eight and 10 nursing students stay in the state following graduation. 

Yet to deal with the needs of Pennsylvania’s aging population, it is expected that by 2030, 34% more physicians will be required, 33% more nurse practitioners, and 9% more nurses. 

To further prepare more workers to ease labor shortages, PASSHE is separately requesting $573.5 million, an inflationary increase of $21 million, enabling the Board of Governors to consider freezing basic in-state undergraduate tuition for an unprecedented fifth consecutive year.