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    Shortage at the Stony Brook Nursing School

    The Stony Brook University School of Nursing program is currently facing a shortage of faculty despite accepting fewer than 5 percent of its applicants. A statewide shortage of nurses has resulted in a crisis among many nursing schools, including those from SUNY.
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    Over 600 people applied to both the 1st and 2nd year basic baccalaureate programs for this year and only 25 were accepted. ‘This is a nationwide phenomenon,’ the nursing schools’ Dean of Student Affairs Kathleen Bratby said, ‘There are so many qualified applicants.’

    In 2006, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing reported that more than 32,000 qualified applicants were turned away from nursing programs because of the shortage of nurse educators and the need for nurses is severe. According to the Bureau of Labor statistics in the year 2000, N.Y. had only 89 percent of the nurses it needed; they estimate that N.Y. will have a shortage of 17,000 nurses by 2010. That is 8.5 percent of New York’s total of 199,834 Registered Nurses.

    According to the Department of Labor, registered nurses constitute the largest healthcare occupation with 2.4 million jobs. The department projects that nurses will create the 2nd largest number of new jobs among all occupations by the year 2014. It estimates that there will be a need for 1.2 million new and replacement nurses in the U.S in seven years.

    The New York Times reported in February 2007 that the budget President George HW Bush proposed included cuts in spending to train young doctors, cuts that would hit N.Y. especially hard. On top of that, Gov. Eliot Spitzer proposed significant healthcare cuts of his own. The combined reductions would total more than 4 percent of N.Y. hospitals’ total incomes-well over $1 billion a year.

    Spitzer’s proposed spending increases overall exceeded former Gov. George E. Pataki’s proposal in his executive budget a year ago, which was just over 4 percent of the total budget. Dealing just with the state’s spending of its own money, not federal aid, the governor is proposing to increase total state spending 7.8 percent, to $83.6 billion, or about three times the rate of inflation projected for the state.

    Sen. Kenneth A. LaValle, chairman of the Senate Higher Education Committee, charged the Nursing Shortage Committee to study and recommend specific proposals to help alleviate the nursing shortage. LaValle noted one of the biggest problems would be obtaining the ‘necessary dollars’ needed for changes.
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    SBU Clinical Associate Professor Nicole Rouhana, who is an adjunct professor with Binghamton University, said other state nursing schools face the same problem, ‘SUNY Binghamton’s Decker School of Nursing received 1200 applicants and only 40 students were accepted,’ Rouhana said.

    Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton visited the Decker school on July 16 to reintroduce her Nursing Education and Quality of Health Care Act, which aims to increase the nurse workforce in rural areas and expand nursing faculty.

    This is just one bill of many that aim to address the problem. Members of the 110th Congress, which took office January 1st, had introduced 6,973 bills, resolutions and amendments; as of June 12, 33 of those bills have become law. With the exception of the appropriations bill, none of the nursing bills passed into law.

    The House and Senate subcommittees on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations subcommittees have produced funding bills that would increase funding for the federal Title VIII Nursing Workforce Development programs. The House bill would increase funding by $16 million; the Senate is $20 million. This would bring the 2008 funding to $169.7 million.

    While the House and Senate have a lot of work to finish these bills, they contrast with the president’s proposal to cut 2008 funding for nursing by $40 million. The president has threatened to veto any legislation that will spend more on domestic health and education than the president prefers.’

    ‘Without professors, there can’t be a class; without a class, there aren’t any nurses; and without any nurses, there’s a big hole in the healthcare provider system,’ said nursing student Sofia’ Reyes. Reyes claims, ‘When it comes to funding, we need it to go to nursing education. After all, we make up a majority of the health care field.’

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