ALBANY, GA (WALB) - There's a critical nursing shortage right now across the country, and some people worry health care reform could just make the problem worse. Colleges and universities are struggling to expand enrollment to meet the rising demand for nursing care.
The federal government estimates American hospitals will need more than one million new and replacement nurses by 2016, and thanks to a new federal grant, more people may now be drawn to the nursing profession.
Nursing student Beth Bauer says choosing to go to nursing school was a no-brainer.
"I had read an article about how a lot of the baby boomers are starting to leave the nursing field and starting to retire and also the same generation is starting to have a lot of illnesses and go into hospitals and everything so I decided now would be the perfect time."
And now is the perfect time. The need for nurses is great and getting greater. Hospitals will need to hire hundreds of thousands of nurses over the next decade.
Wednesday the U.S Department of Health and Human Services announced $13.4 million in loan repayments for nurses who agree to practice in facilities with critical shortage.
"For us, something like that would be pretty much a lifesaver even though tuition here is pretty low we still have to take out more student loans above that just to get to survive day to day," said Bauer.
Although the need is great, the funding falls short...and nurses say some hospitals don't have the means to hire any new staff.
"If you go to local hospitals their websites go to their employment page several years ago there would be 3 350 positions available you go on their now there are maybe 50 that includes nurses aids, LPNs and RNs. They just arent filling positions because of the economy the downturn."
The loan program will also help nurses who want to become nursing teachers. "Because there is such a shortage of faculty we cant admit as many students in the programs that just furthers the number of nurses out there because we cant train them at the rate the demand is asking for."
It takes a special person to become a nurse, and nurses say if it's something you've always dreamed of, you should get the training now because the economy will turn around eventually.
Nurse Instructors I spoke with say if you are thinking about becoming a nurse or nurse faculty member, do your research because both professions have so many benefits some people aren't aware of.
Officials at Darton college tell us they have recently seen a dramatic increase in the number of people applying to their nursing program.