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W.Va. Aims To Address Nursing Shortage

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Citing a nursing shortage caused by the coronavirus pandemic, West Virginia will use $48 million in federal stimulus funding to aggressively recruit and train nurses over the next four years, Gov. Jim Justice said Tuesday.

Justice said at a regular COVID-19 briefing that about 1,700 nurses declined to renew their state licenses last year. He said 68% of those who left the field cited being “just plain tired“ and ”pushed to the very limit” from the strains of the pandemic.

The Republican governor said nursing programs will be expanded next fall at Glenville State College, Concord College, and Bridge Valley Community and Technical College. The funding comes from $126 million remaining to be spent by the state from the federal CARES Act.

The West Virginia Hospital Association warned that hospitals continue to be stressed with high numbers of patients and that staffing shortages are expected to continue for the time being. In addition, projections show that the number of people hospitalized for the virus during the holiday season will approach the record of more than 1,000 set in September. There were 605 COVID-19 hospital patients statewide Tuesday, according to state health figures.

Ann Urling, Justice’s deputy chief of staff, said the goal is to produce more than 2,000 nurses in the next four years above the number of nurses currently graduating in the state.

The initiative will fund nursing scholarships, develop a nursing faculty loan repayment program, and increase both LPN and RN training program capacity, said Cynthia Persily, senior director of health sciences for the state Higher Education Policy Commission.

Persily said creative ways are being looked at to solve immediate nursing shortages.

“Part of this is going to be recruitment of nurses from other parts of the country, which of course is no small challenge given that this is a national shortage,” Persily said. “That recruitment into the state will be an important part of the solution as well.”

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