FRANKFORT— A bill that stands to boost the number of critically needed nurses in Kentucky received approval Wednesday from the Senate Health and Welfare Committee.
Sen. Robby Mills, R-Henderson, the bill’s primary sponsor, said the measure would improve the process for out-of-state and foreign-trained nurses to practice in Kentucky without compromising standards of patient care. It would also improve student access to nursing programs and update the Kentucky Board of Nursing membership requirements to give nurses more of a voice, he said.
Senate Bill 10 is a culmination of quite a bit of work over the interim and into the session, Mills told the committee. It was approved with a 10-0 vote.
Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, is also sponsoring the bill. He said the nursing shortage has been an ongoing issue dating back to around 2013 and that some estimates show the gap could be as high as 10,000 to 14,000 nurses.
Stivers said it has become more exacerbated and apparent during the last couple of years with COVID-19. When elective procedures were halted during the pandemic, some nurses were laid off. Some of them went to other states to work or became travel nurses, he said.
Instead of using predetermined numbers for admission to nursing programs or a temporary executive order, Stivers said the nursing shortage problem should be handled differently.
However, it’s important to have criteria so the public would know that when nurses graduate and start to work in hospitals, they’re qualified to do so, he added.
Those working on the bill have consulted with various schools and institutions, the hospital association and nursing board staff, according to Wednesday’s testimony.
Committee member Sen. Denise Harper Angel, D-Louisville, also suggested retention funds would help retain nurses and called the bill an excellent start.