House bill 2691, signed by Gov. Doug Ducey on June 29, will provide $15.5 million from the State General Fund (GF) to the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHD) and $32 million from the State GF for fiscal years 2023-2025 deploy the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) during the same period.
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The funds are to be used for scholarship programs for health workers with a special focus on the nursing profession. The bill’s terms call for the establishment of the Arizona Nurse Education Investment Pilot Program, or Nurse Program within ADHD, which will receive $15 million from the state GF between fiscal years 2023 and 2025.
According to Heather Ross, PhD, government affairs officer at the Arizona Nurses Association (AzNA), the programs in HB 2691 will empower the nursing workforce by providing funding for each step of the nursing workforce pipeline.
“[The bill addresses] Graduating new nurses by expanding pre-licensing training at our colleges and universities and clinical apprenticeships that give nursing students the hands-on experience they need, supporting the training of advanced nurses (nurses, clinical nurse midwives, anesthesiologists and registered nurses) . clinical nurse specialists) by supporting on-the-job teaching assignments and transition-to-practice programs for new nurses working in hospitals and other healthcare settings to retain new nurses in the profession and provide bedside care for patients,” Ross told State of reform .
The Nurse Program aims to increase the capacity of nursing education programs at local Arizona public universities and community colleges by, according to the statute, “…promoting collaboration between the health care, educational community, and government agencies” to increase the number of nurses to increase at all levels graduating from federal nursing education programs between FY2022 and 2027.
HB 2691 also provides $27 million each year between FY2023 and FY2025 from the state GF for the AHCCCS Licensed or Board-Certified Registered Nurse Clinical Rotational and Pilot Program for Student Nursing. AHCCCS must use these funds to provide grants to licensed healthcare facilities to expand clinical training positions for nursing students.
The bill also allows AHCCCS to use up to $2 million from the pilot clinical rotation program for student nurses and licensed or certified nurses as a grant to a statewide hospital association to implement a licensed registered nurse-to-practice transition program .
Much of the funding contained in HB 2691 is intended to address the nationwide nursing staff shortage, which has reached drastic proportions during the pandemic. As of January 2022 Arizona ranked in the top 5 states with the largest health care workforce shortages, and demand for specialty nurses is projected to increase by 23% through 2025.
Ross said AzNA will continue to advocate for the state’s nurses during next year’s legislative session.
“Although AzNA is focused on nursing, we know that healthcare is a team effort, and we need the entire team working together to serve our patients and communities,” she said. “Ultimately, our policy strategy has a double focus on nurses and patients, so we’re taking an all-hands-on-deck approach to making Arizona a great place for students who are going to become nurses and for new nurses who are becoming experienced.” Become a Nurse, and so all Arizonans know that when they need us, they have a strong nurse to look after them…
In terms of funding, we were pleased that the 2022 legislation, HB 2691, provides for funding over three years, so the extensive programs enabled in Budget 2022 are not a one-off effort. We are working closely with partners across the state to ensure these programs launch successfully and bring a workforce to our state.”