Merkley sponsors bills to increase nursing workforce

Though not a nurse himself, Sen. Jeff Merkley has a close connection to nurses and an interest in bolstering the nursing workforce.

He and Sen. Richard Burr, a Republican from North Carolina, will soon reintroduce the Title VIII Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act, which includes programs to support and advance nursing education, practice, recruitment and retention.

Merkley’s interest stems largely from the fact that his wife Mary is a registered nurse.

“As the husband of a nurse, I hear firsthand about the challenges and successes that come with working on the frontlines of our health care system,” Merkley said in a written statement.

“Every day, nurses take on difficult, essential, and often thankless tasks that keep our health care system running and that have a huge impact on the patient experience. Each of us has a story about the nurse who made all the difference at a frightening or difficult time for our families. I’ll keep fighting to improve federal policy to fully recognize and support the essential role of nurses in our health care system, and I invite all Oregonians to join me in recognizing the tremendous work of our Oregon nurses this National Nurses Week.”

Between 2006 and 2013, Title VIII supported about 520,000 nurses and nursing students and numerous academic nursing institutions and health care facilities. The program provides grants, loans and scholarships at various levels of nursing education.

The reauthorization includes support for training nurses to provide care for seniors.

Merkley also plans to cosponsor a bill to create a pilot program to increase the number of public school nurses.