20 March 2023- A shortage of nurses and physician assistants is straining the ability of the healthcare system in Pennsylvania to provide the care that patients need.
A recent industry survey in the commonwealth found vacancy rates of 32% for certified registered nurse practitioners and nursing support staff, 30% for registered nurses providing direct care and 17% for clinical nurse specialists.
The shortage of these essential frontline workers will worsen as baby boomers age and need more health care. Adding to the need for more nurses, the median age of RNs is 52 years old, signaling a possible retirement wave within 15 years, according to the 2020 National Nursing Workforce Survey conducted by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.
Meeting the needs of the aging population will require 9% more nurses, 33% more nurse practitioners, and 34% more physician assistants by 2030.
Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) is seeking $112 million in state funding to train more students in six in-demand, high-growth jobs, including nurses and physician assistants.
Of the $112 million request, PASSHE universities would use $12.5 million to create a stronger pipeline of nurses and physician assistants from the classroom to the workforce. The universities would invest $7 million to provide direct financial aid to nursing and physician assistant students, saving high-need students an average of $5,000 per year. The remaining $5.5 million would be used to expand high-cost nursing programs.
Lowering the cost to get a degree is a vital step to enabling more people to start their education to become nurses and physician assistants. Affordability is especially important for rural and urban students to have the opportunity to work at hospitals and healthcare facilities and easing the industry’s significant labor shortages.
Separately, PASSHE is requesting $573.5 million, an inflationary increase of $21 million, enabling the Board of Governors to consider freezing basic in-state undergraduate tuition for an unprecedented fifth consecutive year.