A study has found that nurses tend to find work that is close to the nursing school that they graduated from. This means that areas without nursing schools — such as rural areas — tend to have a harder time finding nurses.
And if there aren’t enough nurses to go around, that has serious implications for the health of the people who live in those areas.
The study found that more than half of all nurses work within 40 miles of the nursing school they graduated from. Additionally, almost 80% of the nurses surveyed stay within the state in which they graduated from high school.
“Given the strong tendency for nurses to practice close to where they attended nursing school and to attend nursing school near where they graduated high school, it’s not surprising that parts of the country with few or no schools of nursing are struggling to find nurses,” said Kovner. “We did not investigate the reasons for nurses’ lack of mobility, but this reality suggests that more needs to be done in areas with few nursing schools in order to meet the health care needs of those communities.”
The authors of the study recommend four policy changes to expand the supply of nurses in underserved areas:
– Workforce planners should target educational support, including scholarships and loan forgiveness programs, to provide incentives to local students to pursue nursing education;
– Policy makers should expand the number of nursing education programs in underserved areas, including new four-year nursing programs and distance learning. This could include creating extension programs or expanding programs at local community colleges to offer bachelor’s degrees in nursing;
– State and university leaders should review their admission policies fornursing programs and the levels of financial aid offered, in some cases giving preference to in-state applicants should be considered;
– Programs and policies that offer financial incentives to attract nurses to underserved areas should be encouraged, expanded and fully-funded, including those that already exist such as the National Health ServiceCorps and the Area Health Education Centers.