The pandemic has already made a bad situation worse, and the proposed legislation would help address staffing shortages and reduce health care disparities in rural areas, advocates say.
The Michigan State House Education Committee has advanced bipartisan bills that would allow community colleges to offer a four-year bachelor of science degree in nursing.
Michigan is in the midst of a fourth wave of COVID-19 — with dozens of hospitals across the state at 75% capacity or more. Local hospitals are understaffed and are looking for ways to bring more nurses into the system. Often, hospitals rely on nurses who are still in school.
State Rep. John Roth (R-Traverse City) says there is a “serious need” because the pandemic has exacerbated the shortage of nurses.
“Now with the burnout rate with COVID, [a four-year nursing degree] is an urgent need that we need in our community colleges,” Roth said.
Roth’s wife is a registered nurse. He says similar legislation was discussed more than a decade ago but was pushed back by four-year colleges.
Bethany Corner, a critical care nurse and educator in Midland, says passing these bills will help reduce health care disparities that rural residents face.
“Don’t all of our communities, big or small, deserve nurses who have that higher level of education so you can feel confident that you’re getting the absolute best care possible?” she said.
Opponents of the bill say the bill would not improve access to nursing degrees and instead intensify the need for nursing instructors.
Judy Didion, dean of the Oakland University school of nursing, said the bills would extend the time for new nurses to start working in the field, among other issues.
“These bills would not improve accessibility to nursing education. In fact, their passage would further limit clinical education opportunities for students and what we consider to be the most significant barrier in nursing education. , namely the continued shortage of qualified nursing teachers,” Didion said.
It is unclear when the bills could be put to a vote in the plenum.