Senators Merkley, Burr Announce Committee Passage of Bipartisan Nursing Workforce Bill

Washington, DC – Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley and Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), announced today that the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee unanimously passed by voice vote the Title VIII Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act of 2019. This bipartisan legislation, which the Senators introduced in May during National Nurses Month, would reauthorize, update, and improve critical programs that help educate and support the American nursing workforce.

“As the husband of a nurse, I’ve seen firsthand how important nurses are to patients, and how their support and advocacy can make the world of difference for patients at some of the most difficult and joyous moments of their lives,” said Merkley. “We must do more to support our nurses by putting critical training and development programs within reach and addressing the nursing shortage. Today’s HELP Committee vote is an important step towards accomplishing those goals, and I’m going to keep fighting to get this bill across the finish line and signed into law.”

“Day in and day out, Americans are touched by the care and compassion of nurses,” said Burr. “Today marks an important step forward in supporting our nation’s nursing workforce. By investing in their education, training, and retention programs, we ensure quality health care for years to come. I am proud to work with Senator Merkley on this important legislation and I appreciate my HELP Committee colleagues supporting this measure today. I look forward to the Senate’s passage.”

Nurses provide quality patient care, conduct critical medical research, and are the backbone of America’s health care system. There are an estimated 4 million registered nurses in the United States, making nurses the single-largest component of the health care profession.

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 Title VIII Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act of 2019 authorizes funding through Fiscal Year 2024 for 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 Title VIII 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 Title VIII Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act of 2019 also updates the 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 all four Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) roles by including Clinical Nurse Specialists.
  • Streamlining and modernizing the Nurse Education, Practice, Quality, and Retention funding opportunities.
  • Expanding choice for the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment program by allowing nurses to serve at qualified health care facilities in shortage areas, regardless of tax status.

The Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act of 2019 is supported by the American Nurses Association, the American Association of the Colleges of Nursing (AACN), the Oregon Nurses Association, and 60 other national nursing organizations.

“Title VIII is the largest source of federal funding for nursing education.  These programs are vital to prepare nurses to provide care across all practice settings and in rural and medically underserved communities,” said American Nurses Association President Ernest Grant, PhD, RN, FAAN. “I want to thank Senator Merkley and the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions for passing this out of the committee. ANA appreciates Senator Merkley for his continued leadership on nursing issues.”

“Our nation needs more nurses, especially at the baccalaureate and graduate levels, as well as nurse faculty, to continue to meet our country’s growing demand for health care,” said Dr. Ann Cary, Chair of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) Board of Directors. “We thank Senator Jeff Merkley for his leadership to reauthorize Title VIII Nursing Workforce Development Programs and are hopeful that today’s markup in the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee will continue the bipartisan commitment to passing this essential bill and supporting nursing education, practice, and retention.”

“As the Senate Nursing Caucus Co-Chair and original sponsor of the Title VIII Nursing Workforce Reauthorization bill, Senator Merkley has continually illustrated his dedication to educating the future nursing workforce,” said Dr. Deborah Trautman, AACN President and Chief Executive Officer. “Title VIII Reauthorization will help ensure that all communities, including those in rural and underserved areas, have access to high-quality healthcare. We look forward to working with Senator Merkley to ensure that this bipartisan legislation continues to swiftly move through the Senate.”

“Oregon’s nurses are celebrating the expansion of Title VIII programs which will provide much-needed resources for nurses across Oregon,” said Teri Mills MS, RN, CNE-retired, nurse educator and the Oregon Nurses Foundation’s 2019 Oregon Nurse of the Year. “Nurses are the heart of our health care system, and by preserving and expanding quality nursing education programs, this bill is supporting not just nurses, but also patients all across the state. As this bill moves to the Senate, we are grateful to Senator Merkley for his long-standing commitment to the nursing profession and his leadership on this critical health care and workforce legislation.”

“Investing in our nursing workforce is critically important to ensure we can provide the best care for all communities across Oregon,” said Adrienne M. Enghouse, RN and President of the Oregon Federation of Nurses & Health Professionals Local 5071. “This bill expands the opportunity for nurses’ education and training—not only supporting our invaluable nursing workforce, but also improving the quality of care for patients. This will improve developing the nursing workforce in areas that have critical nursing shortages. The Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals thank Senator Merkley for his ongoing support of nurses and health professionals and ultimately the patients across Oregon.”

“Title VIII Nursing Workforce Development funding is vital to ensuring Oregon’s nursing workforce – registered nurses, advanced practice nurses, and nurse faculty – to address the health care needs of all communities,” said Susan Bakewell-Sachs, Ph.D., R.N., P.N.P.- B.C., F.A.A.N., Dean and Vice President for Nursing Affairs at Oregon Health and Science University’s (OHSU) School of Nursing. “At OHSU, passage of Title VIII Reauthorization would mean continued improvement in nursing workforce diversity, reducing student debt, developing new education models, and directly supporting preparation of nurse faculty to teach the future nurses in Oregon.”

“Linfield Good Samaritan School of Nursing applauds Senator Merkley’s unwavering support of nursing,” said Kim Dupree Jones PhD, FNP, FAAN, Professor and Dean of Linfield College’s School of the Nursing. “Four million U.S. nurses are not only the backbone of the health care industry, but also the largest constituent group in health care and our country still needs more. This bill will allow Schools of Nursing, such as Linfield, to continue to educate students who go on to provide stellar clinical care, conduct scientific research, shape policy and grow the next generation of nursing faculty.”

The bipartisan Title VIII Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act of 2019 is cosponsored by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Doug Jones (D-AL), and Susan Collins (R-ME).

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