A recent report says Kentucky is one of several states which faces an increasing shortage of registered nurses.
Area nursing programs and hospitals say they are already seeing the shortage and the Southern Regional Education Board study says it will get worse.
The Southern Regional Education Board or SREB believes Kentucky faces a shortage of registered nurses and that shortage is only going to increase as the aging population's health care needs explode.
But they say the shortage starts with nursing education.
“Last year gradually our applications started to go up and this year we have seen a jump in the number of applicants desiring to come into the program,” Dr. Mary Redo Simpson said.
Mary Redo Simpson works in the Nursing Program at Pikeville College.
They have recently decided to expand their nursing program and double the number of students beginning January 2008.
Simpson says having enough teachers for the program is the hard part since they must have a Masters in nursing.
“In our region there is not a wealth of masters prepared nurses,” Simpson said.
Simpson says there are many opportunities for a nurse with a masters degree, but the hard part is attracting them to teach.
Cheryl Hickman is the Chief Nursing Officer at Pikeville Medical Center and she says the hospital is trying to keep enough nurses on the staff to cover for the increasing shortage coming out of school.
“Nurses can't take care of 10 and 12 patients at a time anymore, we've got to build our workforce and get the ratios to a 4 to 1, 5 to 1 ratio,” Hickman said.
Hickman says masters programs in nursing are not accessible enough for people in Eastern Kentucky.
“Accessibility is the key and cost is the key to getting more masters prepared nurses in the state of Kentucky,” Hickman said.
The SREB council says until states make creating more faculty in nursing education a priority, applicants will continue to be turned away and medical facilities will not have an adequate number of registered nurses..