NEW YORK NURSE: January 2008
by Nancy Webber
By the end of January, Gov. Eliot Spitzer will deliver his Executive Budget for 2008-2009. This will be the official beginning of the annual debate about how the state government should spend its money.
This year, however, the Governor invited stakeholders to comment on the budget before its release. NYSNA outlined its wish list at a public hearing before the State Budget Division on Nov. 30.
With New York facing a decade-long nursing shortage, building the nursing workforce is essential to maintaining the public’s health. NYSNA has proposed a three-pronged approach to enhancing nursing education that includes scholarships for nursing students, the expansion of nursing programs, and initiatives designed to improve retention of RNs once they are employed by healthcare facilities.
Scholarships: The average age of a nursing student is 31, and the unique needs of adult learners should be addressed. Non-traditional students have financial burdens that make it difficult for them to complete their studies. NYSNA is recommending that approximately $7.7 million of the Executive Budget be allocated for nursing scholarships.
Nursing Education Programs: Last year, the legislature allocated approximately $1 million in new money to help independent colleges and universities expand and improve their nursing education programs. NYSNA is urging the Governor to make an investment in public schools of nursing by allocating $4 million for SUNY nursing education programs and $4 million for CUNY nursing education programs.
Nurse Residency/Internship Programs: To encourage new nurses to remain in the profession, the Joint Commission has recommended nurse residency programs that would allow new nurses to further develop their skills in clinical settings. A study published in the Journal of Nursing Administration found a six-month nurse internship program was cost-effective for employers. NYSNA is recommending that the state budget include funding for the development of a pilot nurse residency program.
Healthcare facilities in New York are already facing severe challenges from low reimbursement rates and the implementation of the Berger Commission law. Facilities often react to reimbursement cuts by reducing direct-care staff, including nurses. Having fewer nurses on staff compromises the quality of care patients receive. Without laws or regulations that set staffing standards or ban mandatory overtime, less money for hospitals would likely result in staff cutbacks and a riskier environment for patients.
The Nurses Association opposes any efforts to move professional licensure funds into the state’s general fund. These fees are paid by registered nurses and other professionals who have demonstrated competence to practice their profession safely and effectively. The Office of the Professions administers licensure for RNs and 46 other professions and is increasing its enforcement efforts. The office will need all available resources to protect the public.
The State Legislature, which often amends the Executive Budget, has until April 1 to adopt a new spending plan. NYSNA will continue to lobby legislators about budget issues and plans a budget lobby day for NYSNA leaders in February. For more information and a copy of the NYSNA budget testimony, visit the “Legislative Advocacy” section at www.nysna.org.