Merkley, Burr Introduce Bipartisan Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act of 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley and Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), introduced today the bipartisan Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act of 2019, which would reauthorize, update, and improve critical programs that help to grow and support the American nursing workforce.

“As the husband of a nurse, I’ve seen close-up how difficult their jobs are and how important they are to patients,” said Merkley. “Nurses support and advocate for patients at some of the most difficult moments of their lives. Now, it’s our turn to support the nurses in each of our communities, by investing in the training and workforce development that is key to the future of this critical profession.”

“Every day, nurses provide care and compassion to families during their greatest time of need,” said Burr. “Whether it’s a routine checkup or a major medical crisis, nurses are on the frontlines of health care. This bill updates nurse education, training, and retention programs so nurses across the country can continue their life-saving work, and ensures the next generation of nurses are ready for their exciting careers. I am proud to reintroduce this legislation to enhance our nursing workforce with my colleague, Senator Merkley.”

With many nurses retiring and Baby Boomers projected to increase medical care demand in communities across America, the nursing workforce is at a critical juncture. To help meet these needs, the Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act of 2019 authorizes through Fiscal Year 2024 a broad range of programs outlined under Title VIII of the Public Health Services Act, a law passed in 1944 to strengthen public health and support health care professionals.

The Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act of 2019 recommits Congress to support Title VIII programs, which advance nursing education, practice, recruitment, and retention. Title VIII also includes programs that support nursing education from entry-level preparation through graduate study, including loans and scholarships to nurses-in-training, nurse educators, and education institutions that train nurses. These efforts are essential to ensuring the American nursing workforce is prepared to meet care needs now and in the future, including in rural and medically underserved communities, which can face unique challenges in providing quality and timely care to the individuals living in these communities.

The Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act of 2019 also updates the Title VIII programs to ensure that they reflect the current nursing workforce needs and opportunities by:

  • Adding nurse-managed health clinics as entities eligible to receive Title VIII funding;
  • Updating the Title VIII programs to reflect the role of clinical nurse specialists and such programs as part of advanced education nursing; and
  • Streamlining and modernizing the Nurse Education, Practice, Quality, and Retention funding opportunities.

Nurses provide quality care, conduct critical medical research, tailor care to each community and each individual’s needs, promote healthy lifestyles, and fight public health disparities. There are an estimated 4 million registered nurses in the United States, making nurses the single-largest component of the health care profession.

The Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act of 2019 is supported by the American Association of the Colleges of Nursing (AACN).

“The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) commends the bipartisan efforts of our Senate nursing champions for their steadfast commitment to reauthorizing Title VIII Nursing Workforce Development programs. Introducing this legislation during National Nurses Week reaffirms the Senate’s commitment to educating the next generation of nurses and ensuring a strong nursing workforce,” said Dr. Ann Cary, Chair of AACN’s Board of Directors.

A copy of the Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act of 2019 can be found here.