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The demand for qualified nursing personnel has rarely, if ever, been as high as it is today. Report after report shows clear evidence that hospitals and healthcare facilities are facing critical staffing shortages that jeopardize the health and well-being of our communities.
Colleges and nursing schools can be a powerful part of the solution to this crisis by being supported to provide increased on-campus clinical opportunities. We need to change the standards to permit one-third of clinical training to be obtained through simulation training— innovative, state-of-the-art simulation experiences that mimic real-life patient care scenarios in a safe learning environment. Doing so will enable colleges across the nation to enroll a greater number of nursing students, which is an essential step in the plan to stop the shortage.
How did we get to this point? The COVID-19 pandemic created the perfect storm for staffing, placing extreme stress on an already fragile healthcare system. This has resulted in large numbers of nurses and other healthcare workers retiring or simply leaving the profession.
These statistics help illustrate the magnitude of the problem:
- From 2019 to 2020, job vacancies for nursing personnel increased up to 30%, and the trend is expected to persist, with an estimated shortage of up to 3.2 million healthcare workers by 2026. (Source: American Hospital Association)
- New York State faces an estimated shortage of more than 39,000 registered nurses by 2030. (The American Journal of Medical Quality)
- 20-30% of front-line healthcare workers are considering leaving their jobs as a result of post-traumatic stress from the COVID pandemic combined with years of being undervalued. (Source: CNBC)
As the number-two nursing program in New York (ranked by Nursing.org), Rockland Community College (RCC) is in a unique position to help address this healthcare staffing crisis. We are working closely with our valued local healthcare facilities to develop strategies that will help close the gap in nursing shortages. RCC has made a strategic commitment to increase the number of nursing students that graduate from our nursing program and drastically expand the number of other healthcare degree tracks offered at the college.
We have already made positive strides: Our nursing school currently graduates 90-100 nursing students each year, with an NCLEX pass rate of 96.4 percent. We offer Associate’s degrees in Nursing, Occupational Therapy Assistant, and Human Performance Studies. We have also partnered with the online career-training firm CareerStep to train students in rewarding healthcare careers such as Caregiver, Certified Healthcare Documentation Specialist, Dental Assistant, EKG Technician, Fitness & Wellness Coach, Health & Lifestyle Coach, Hemodialysis Technician, Home Health Aide, Medical Administrative Assistant, Medical Assistant, Medical Coding & Billing for Outpatient Services, Medical Scribe, Patient Care Technician, Pharmacy Technician & Phlebotomy Technician.
Thanks to the passing of the Omnibus Spending Bill in January 2023, we will also be receiving $3 million for the construction and expansion of RCC’s Nursing Simulation Laboratory. The grant is instrumental in providing students with simulation training that can help provide on-campus opportunities for clinical experience.
With the increased use of simulation training, we can broaden our reach and boost the number of “workforce-ready” nursing students who can help to mitigate the current shortage.
That is why we strongly support Senate Bill S6717A, introduced on May 13, 2021, which aims to “permit one-third of clinical training to be obtained through simulation experience.” The bill advanced to a third reading in the Senate on May 16, 2022, and, if passed, will help nursing schools across the country to increase nursing enrollees and graduates.
RCC looks forward to future funding opportunities that will help us deliver high-quality healthcare programs that can make a huge difference in overcoming our current healthcare staffing challenges. By enacting strategic academic programs and working with the government and our healthcare and community partners, we can provide students with the education and training they need to become valued members of the healthcare workforce. The future health of our communities depends on it.
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