Kentucky looks for ways to combat nursing shortage

WATCH | Kentucky looks for ways to combat nursing shortage
Published: Nov. 21, 2023 at 3:17 PM EST
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - The Kentucky Hospital Association surveyed every hospital in the Commonwealth.

At the end of last year, hospitals had a workforce vacancy rate of 15%.

“By 2035, we will only have 90 percent of the RNs needed for patient care and only 60% of the LPNs that are needed,” said Nancy Galvagni, President of Kentucky Hospital Association.

She says it’s a problem that was only made worse by the pandemic.

“I think it’s COVID,” said Galvagni. “COVID did a huge disservice to the nursing profession. I think at first, the nurses were heroes, but the longer COVID drug on, it’s very hard. It’s long hours, it’s exposure to the disease, and there was a lot on social media that was very negative to nursing.”

Associate Dean at UK College of Nursing, Sheila Melander, says there are other factors as well.

“We also have retirements, we have an aging population, and we also have a pipeline problem with getting those nurses to the bedside,” said Melander.

She says UK has expanded its admissions from 120 students twice a year to 180.

They’ve also opened up an accelerated program. But more students also means the need for more teachers.

“Because they go hand in glove, right,” she said. “We can’t increase this pipeline with this dramatic of a number without increasing our faculty as well.”

She tells WKYT that’s where UK Healthcare has stepped in, partnering together to increase educators.

Lawmakers say it may take the state a decade to catch up.