Merkley, Colleagues Push to Increase Nursing Education and Workforce Support 

Washington, D.C. – Today, Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, along with U.S. Senators Peter Welch (D-VT), Tina Smith (D-MN), Angus King (I-ME), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and Alex Padilla (D-CA), introduced the bicameral Future Advancement of Academic Nursing (FAAN) Act. This legislation would support a grant program to increase the number of faculty and students at nursing schools, which is critical to addressing nursing workforce shortages. This would help nursing schools to enhance preparedness, quickly respond to public health emergencies and pandemics, enroll students underrepresented in the nursing workforce, and modernize nursing education and infrastructure.

“Nurses continue to find themselves on the front lines of our major public health battles, often times without the full support they need,” said Senator Merkley. “As the husband of a nurse, I know the sacrifices that are made to care for patients and to keep our medical centers up and running. We must do everything we can to support our nursing workforce, just as they support each and every one of us, and the FAAN Act is just one way we can help achieve this commitment by invigorating nursing education.”

“Nurses play a crucial role in ensuring the health and welfare of communities across the country. But the ongoing nursing workforce shortage means people may not be able to get the care they need–and rural communities are often first to feel the impact. The FAAN Act works to address the nursing workforce to increase the capacity of our health care system to respond to public health emergencies and provide crucial funds to improve educational programs, modernize infrastructure, and bolster our health care workforce,” said Senator Welch.

“Even before the pandemic, there were serious nursing shortages,” said Senator Smith. “This bill will invest in nursing schools to strengthen educational programs and provide support for aspiring nurses to continue their education. Nurses are the backbone of our health care system. They’re there for us when we need them, and now we need to show up for them.”

“Last year, when I visited Beal University’s campus in Wilton, I was inspired by the talent of Maine’s young, aspiring nurses who demonstrated a clear commitment to their calling in healthcare,” said Senator King. “The Future Advancement of Academic Nursing (FAAN) Act would award $1 billion in grants that could support nursing education for students at Beal and across Maine. By supporting programs nationwide to tackle the shortage of nurses, the FAAN Act would also improve healthcare access and ensure Maine continues to have dedicated nurses in the years to come. Improving access to healthcare has been a longtime challenge for Maine’s rural communities and aging population, but bolstering the workforce is an essential way to keep these young professionals entering the workforce. Thanks to my colleagues for working with me to support our rural communities in Maine and across the country.”

“As we navigate unprecedented work shortages in the health care industry, nurses remain on the front lines providing critical care and compassion to those in need,” said Senator Booker. “Investing in nursing education and equipping nurses with the resources they need to continue their life-saving work is necessary to safeguarding our nation’s public health.”

Companion legislation was introduced in the House by Representative Lauren Underwood (D-IL-14).

“Nurses provide critically important care that keeps our families and communities healthy. As one of the few nurses serving in Congress, I’ve always been committed to advancing policies that strengthen our nursing workforce,” said Rep. Underwood. “By making an unprecedented $1 billion investment in schools of nursing, the FAAN Act would grow the nursing workforce and expand and diversify the pipeline of nurses in underserved and rural areas. I look forward to working with Senator Merkley to pass the FAAN Act and provide the investments we need to create a stronger health care system that addresses nursing shortages and meets the needs of our families and communities.”

The FAAN Act is supported by over 30 organizations including the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, American Federation of Teachers, American Nurses Association, and National Rural Health Association. A full list of supporting organizations can be found here.

“As we contend with a growing demand for nurses and an aging population, we recognize how important a highly educated nursing workforce is to supporting the health care needs of all communities, from our underserved and rural areas to our urban centers,” said Dr. Cynthia McCurren, Chair of the AACN Board of Directors. “The FAAN Act is a crucial step forward as we work to recruit and retain nursing students and faculty, support our schools of nursing, facilitate academic-practice partnerships, and ensure the educational pathways remain strong as we work to serve America’s patients.”

“AACN applauds Senator Jeff Merkley and Congresswoman Lauren Underwood for putting forward historic investments in nursing education and recognizing the value our nursing schools, faculty, and students have on health care system,” said Dr. Deborah Trautman, AACN President and Chief Executive Officer. “We look forward to working with Congress to pass the FAAN Act and ensure these vital resources are available as today’s students become tomorrow’s frontline providers.”

“Our country’s healthcare workforce is on the front line, taking care of our communities every day, but there are enormous challenges – extreme burnout, heavy patient loads, and a shortage of professionals in the pipeline who are willing to do this work, on top of the exodus of people leaving the job altogether. It’s well past time to invest in building a more robust system to educate, train and prepare nurses. Senator Merkley’s bill will help to produce the next generation of nurses, particularly for communities that have been underserved, by expanding nursing education programs and hiring and training diverse professionals to join the healthcare profession. On behalf of the 200,000 nurses and healthcare professionals of the AFT, I am pleased to endorse the Future Advancement of Academic Nursing Act,” said AFT President, Randi Weingarten.

“America’s health care system is reliant on a robust nursing workforce. That starts with our student nurses and the educational opportunities they can access. In addition to grants awarded to nursing schools, this bill will help ensure our nursing workforce is diverse and representative of communities across the country,” said ANA President Jennifer Mensik Kennedy, PhD, MBA, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN. “The American Nurses Association (ANA) thanks Representative Underwood and Senator Merkley for their work on this and for representing our nation’s nurses in Congress. ANA urges Congress to prioritize and invest in our nurses so they are well-equipped to apply what they learned in the classroom to the communities they’ll serve.”

“Rural communities have been hit especially hard by the nursing shortage in recent years. A longstanding bottleneck to the creation of a robust nursing workforce has been the limited number of students and faculty that nursing schools could accommodate. The National Rural Health Association applauds Senator Merkley for introducing legislation that would expand the capacity of America’s nursing schools to train nurses in rural areas,” said Alan Morgan, Chief Executive Officer, National Rural Health Association.

Bill text can be found here.

A Section by Section of the bill can be found here.