Lawmaker hopes to address nursing shortage through school funding

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Savannah Hopkinson
Lauren Jones practices “checking the vitals” of a top-of-the-line mannequin in a BYU nursing walk-in lab. (Savannah Hopkinson)

Lauren Jones studies rigorously every day to pursue her dream of becoming a nurse. Sen. Ann Millner, R-Ogden is sponsoring a bill that will try to make it easier for many students’ dreams like hers to come true during the current legislative session.

Utah is experiencing a shortage of nurses. The U.S. is predicted to be nearly 7,000 nurses short by 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Sen. Ann Millner, R-Ogden, wants to change that.

Millner is sponsoring SB147, which would provide a process to fund the projected demand for individuals to enter a nursing profession. The bill would help nursing schools — such as BYU’s nursing program — meet that demand by providing funds so more nursing students can enroll.

Savannah Hopkinson
Lauren Jones is pursuing her dream in BYU’s College of Nursing, where the motto is to, “learn the healer’s art.” (Savannah Hopkinson)

Jones is a student of BYU’s competitive nursing program. She said when she was a freshman, almost every girl she knew wanted to go into nursing.

“Knowing we need more nurses, I think that would be great,” Jones said. “Because, here at BYU, so many people would love to go into nursing. I know the lack of nurses isn’t because of a lack of desire … with more funding, schools could admit more students.”

Millner said the legislature wants to be focused and data-driven with funding so regional and rural needs in Utah can be met.

“We need to increase our nursing enrollment and graduation in the state in order to meet our healthcare needs,” Millner said. “There’s no one more connected than our nurses in terms of providing the kind of quality care that we all expect.”

Adri Robinson, another nursing student at BYU, said she doesn’t think enrollment would be the best use of additional funding.

“BYU has pretty awesome equipment, but I’m not sure that other programs have quite as much, especially small accelerated programs,” Robinson said. “If funding were put towards better equipment and better hands-on experiences, instead of enrollment, I think it would help generate better-prepared and knowledgable nurses.”

The Medical Education Council would be in charge of projecting the demands and reporting them to the legislature and to education committees. The process would be equally applicable to universities as to tech colleges.

Millner said she thinks SB147 would have great impact on the lives of Utah residents.

“It gets down to a very important time in individual lives when people really need the support of their healthcare system,” Millner said.

Jones said when she was deciding what she wanted to spend her life doing, she wanted to do something she enjoyed and would provide opportunities to help in her community.

“In the medical field, nurses are the eyes, ears, hands and everything of patient care,” Jones said. “I just love the service aspect of it.”

Millner said she hopes to facilitate many more nurses in the state of Utah not only to help students achieve their goals, but to provide a sufficient labor force care for Utah residents’ needs.

The bill passed with a unanimous favorable recommendation in the Senate education committee on Wednesday, Feb. 7. It will go next to the Senate floor for consideration.

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