Blunt Rochester Leads Letter Calling on Biden Administration to Create a Coordinated National Strategy to Address the Nursing Workforce Shortage
Washington, December 9, 2022 | Andrew Donnelly (302-893-4406)
WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.), member of the House Health Subcommittee, sent a letter to the Office of Management and Budget calling on the agency to develop a coordinated national strategy to address the nursing workforce shortage impacting the health care sector. In the letter, Blunt Rochester called on the Biden Administration to outline a coordinated national strategy to address the nursing workforce shortage in his budget for Fiscal Year 2024. Specifically, Blunt Rochester pointed to the implementation of a national nursing-focused Health Workforce Research Center and funding to support state-based nursing workforce centers.
The letter follows Blunt Rochester’s introduction of the bipartisan, bicameral National Nursing Workforce Center Act in September. This legislation would bring localized, on-the-ground support for states, such as Delaware, to either establish more Nursing Workforce Centers (NWC) or support their current centers to help with the recruitment and retention of nurses. In October, Blunt Rochester hosted a roundtable conversation with Beebe Healthcare on the impact of the nursing workforce shortage on Delaware’s health care sector that focused on root causes of the shortage and strategies to improve it.
“In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the already overstretched nursing workforce is being forced to grapple with a host of new and intensifying challenges that now threaten the stability and quality of the care system. While the Biden Administration has worked tirelessly to support the nursing workforce, it is now abundantly clear that improved federal and state coordination is needed to monitor nursing shortages, coordinate strategies to alleviate the pressures on the nursing workforce, and advise policymakers, health care leaders, and educators,” wrote Blunt Rochester. “It is imperative that the President’s Budget include a comprehensive proposal to centralize the study of the ongoing nursing workforce issues, such as through the establishment of a National Nursing Workforce Research program.”
Text of the letter can be found here or below.
December 9, 2022
The Honorable Shalanda Young Director
Office of Management and Budget 725 17th Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20503 Director Young:
In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the already overstretched nursing workforce is being
forced to grapple with a host of new and intensifying challenges that now threaten the stability and quality of the care system. While the Biden Administration has worked tirelessly to support the nursing workforce, it is now abundantly clear that improved federal and state coordination is needed to monitor nursing shortages, coordinate strategies to alleviate the pressures on the nursing workforce, and advise policymakers, health care leaders, and educators. As you work to develop the President’s Budget Request for Fiscal Year 2024 (President’s Budget), it is imperative that the President’s Budget include a comprehensive proposal to centralize the study of the ongoing nursing workforce issues, such as through the establishment of a National Nursing Workforce Research program.
As the nation's largest healthcare profession, with nearly 4.2 million registered nurses (RNs) nationwide, and a disproportionate employer of women and racial minorities, a robust nursing workforce is critical for improving health, economic security, and equity in this country. For many reasons, nurses are leaving the profession in record numbers, including distressing work environments, the significant burden placed on nurses by the pandemic, and educational bottlenecks. Employment levels for registered nurses declined by three percent between 2020 and 2021, the largest decline in at least 20 years. And fewer practicing nurses are resulting in delays in treatments or procedures as hospitals close departments, longer hospital stays, and increased incidents of adverse patient events. The economic burden of the nursing shortage is substantial as experts estimate that annual burnout-related turnover alone costs hospitals $9 billion for nurses.
As the nursing landscape rapidly evolves, stakeholders need up-to-date, actionable information on emerging nursing trends to develop sound interventions and effectively target resources. HRSA’s own 2021 Health Workforce Strategic Plan acknowledges that “workforce supply and demand data are not static” and that “for data that do exist, data analysis is difficult, as the quality and granularity vary widely, and data sources, formats, and occupational definitions are inconsistent.” Considering these findings and the acute concerns of the nursing shortage, the Center for American Progress recommended the establishment or designation of federal and state-level entities to monitor nursing shortages. Noting specifically:
A permanent body must be authorized to document the state of the nursing workforce and advise on policy solutions to address challenges………Congress should fund and deputize state-level nursing workforce organizations to address state-specific nursing shortages. Many states have nursing workforce centers, organizations that typically work to develop and share best practices in nursing workforce practice and policy, but they do not always have a direct mandate to inform state government decisions on educational pipelines or workplace conditions. A set of state-level organizations with a consistent mandate, and a reporting structure to a national commission…. would be able to advise on state-level nursing shortages.
Senator Merkley and I introduced the bipartisan National Nursing Workforce Center Act of 2022 (H.R.8817/S.4844) to address the findings of both the Health Workforce Strategic Plan and leading public policy advocates. This bill would also make a small technical correction to enable HRSA to establish a federal nursing-focused Health Workforce Research Center and provide funding to support state-based nursing workforce centers. While HRSA currently has the capacity to analyze workforce data from other professions through the nine existing Health Workforce Research Centers, its ability to coordinate and conduct research on nursing workforce issues is severely constrained because HRSA is statutorily prohibited from adding a nursing- focused Health Workforce Research Center.
I believe enabling HRSA to create a nursing-focused Health Workforce Research Center and enhanced federal support and coordination of state-based nursing workforce centers will help put the profession of nursing back on stable footing. I therefore request that you consider including the following language in the President’s Budget Request for Fiscal Year 2024:
Nursing Workforce Centers
The U.S. has experienced cyclical nursing workforce challenges for decades, but none as pronounced as today’s challenges. The HRSA Health Workforce Research Centers support research that helps decision-makers at the federal, state, and local levels understand health workforce needs. However, HRSA cannot operate a nursing focused research center because HRSA has operationalized PHS Act section 761(c) by interpreting the phrase, “under this title,” to refer to Title VII of the PHS Act, which does not have a nursing focus.
This proposal gives HRSA clear authority to fund a nursing-focused center to expand the evidence base and help coordinate a national strategy to address the nursing shortage. This proposal also expands coordination and support for state-based nursing workforce centers.
This policy is consistent with the Biden Administration’s past efforts to support nurses, and
it will strengthen our understanding of the nursing workforce nationally and in each state moving forward.
I look forward to partnering with you on this issue.
Lisa Blunt Rochester
Member of Congress
CC: Xavier Becerra, Secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
CC: Carole Johnson, Administrator, Health Resources and Services Administration