New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is introducing a bill that would give the state's licensed nurses and nursing candidates priority admission to its public colleges.
The legislation would prioritize their entry into baccalaureate programs offered by New York's two public university systems, which collectively enroll more than half a million students.
The proposal comes as the U.S. healthcare system grapples with nursing shortages while battling the coronavirus pandemic.
New York enacted a law in 2017 requiring nurses to complete bachelor's degrees within 10 years of getting their associate degree in order to stay licensed. The new proposal aims to help some 40,000 nurses obtain these credentials, according to a news release.
A State University of New York spokesperson said the system is working with its campuses to implement the plan. A City University of New York system spokesperson referred Higher Ed Dive to the governor's news release.
The pandemic has put a spotlight on nationwide nursing shortages, which are aggravated by baby boomers retiring from the profession and the growing demand for healthcare services as that generation ages, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.
One study estimated the U.S. will have more than 510,000 unfilled nursing roles by 2030, with shortages concentrated in the West and South. The researchers predicted New York will be short around 20,000 registered nurses that year.
Dearths of nurses and other healthcare providers have put some hospitals on the back foot during the health crisis. Nurses who work in intensive care units are particularly lacking, Stat News reported, especially as workers catch the virus themselves.
Interest in nursing programs appears to be surging during the pandemic, however. The University of Virginia saw a 27% increase in one of its master's programs in nursing. And nursing program applications at Husson University, in Maine, doubled this spring from a year ago, according to a local media report.
Yet nursing schools can't necessarily take on more students, according to The Hechinger Report. Baccalaureate and graduate programs in nursing rejected more than 80,000 qualified applicants in 2019 because they lacked enough faculty members, classroom space and clinical placements for them, AACN data shows.
The pandemic has compounded some of these issues. Nursing instructors are quitting their jobs, and colleges are struggling to find hospitals that have time for hands-on training, the publication noted.