On December 20, the House approved, by voice vote, legislation (H.R. 3487) designed to reduce the nursing shortage. The measure was considered under suspension of the rules, an expedited floor procedure that limits debate, prohibits amendments, and requires a two-thirds majority to pass.
Sponsored by Rep. Michael Bilirakis (R-FL), the bill would expand a program that provides loan repayment to nurses in exchange for service in critical nursing shortage areas. The bill would expand the list of eligible facilities to include private hospitals, state or local departments of public health, skilled nursing facilities, home health agencies, hospice programs, and ambulatory surgical centers.
H.R. 3487 also would establish a scholarship program for individuals seeking nursing education in exchange for service in critical nursing shortage areas upon completion of that education.
Additionally, the bill would direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to develop and issue public service announcements that advertise and promote the nursing profession. Grants would be awarded to support state and local advertising campaigns to promote the nursing profession.
The bill would authorize such sums as necessary in FY2002 through FY2007 to carry out these programs.
Also, the General Accounting Office would be required to conduct two studies. One study would examine the differences in the hiring of nurses by nonprofit entities as compared to for-profit entities. The other study would examine whether and to what extent there is a shortage of nursing school faculty.
The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee approved similar bills (S.721 and S. 1597) on November 1 (see The Source, 11/2/01, p. 3).