Oregon's Nursing Shortage Gets Financial Boost

11/06/02    Portland, Ore.

Former U.S. Sen. Mark O. Hatfield announced that the Northwest Health Foundation has pledged approximately $1 million a year, starting in 2003, for the next five years or longer to address the nursing shortage in Oregon Hatfield made the announcement to a crowd of about 100 people at the 10th anniversary celebration of the OHSU School of Nursing's 90,000-square-foot building on Marquam Hill in Portland. Hatfield is the chairman of the Northwest Health Foundation.

"Our region and the country are currently experiencing a multi-dimensional shortage of nurses, for which the causes are multiple and complex," said Thomas Aschenbrener, president of the Northwest Health Foundation. "We feel that there is no greater health care need in Oregon right now than to begin addressing the nursing crisis. NWHF will be working with all schools of nursing and nursing organizations to ease the nursing shortage and to assure that Oregon continues to be a leader in nursing education in the future."

"We want to express our gratitude that the foundation is showing its recognition and concern by putting financial resources into helping us solve the nursing shortage. We are hoping that other organizations and groups will follow the Northwest Health Foundation's lead in helping in this crisis," said Kathleen Potempa, R.N., D.N.Sc., F.A.A.N., vice president and dean, OHSU School of Nursing.

The focus of the NWHF funding will be to address several areas of need that were identified by the Oregon Nursing Leadership Council, Aschenbrener said. The first area will be to provide assistance to the nursing leadership to continue its work to implement the strategies it has outlined. The second area will support projects to prepare more nurse educators, and recruit and retain more nurses, especially among underrepresented populations. Additional projects will enhance curricula based on best practices research and improve working conditions for nurses. Finally, the funds may support the development of a new scholarship program for nursing students, he said.

The Oregon Center for Nursing was formed by the Oregon Nursing Leadership Council in 2001 as a strategy for dealing with Oregon's nursing shortage. The council, of which OHSU is a member, has developed a strategic plan detailing numerous solutions to the nursing shortage, including doubling enrollment to Oregon nursing programs by 2004, improving recruitment and retention of nurses, and redesigning nursing education to meet the changing health care needs of Oregonians.

Deborah Burton, executive director of the Oregon Center for Nursing, said, "We are very grateful that the Northwest Health Foundation has made this commitment to begin to reverse the negative impacts that the nursing crisis is having on patient care. They share our vision that the current and growing shortage of nurses is affecting every area of health care, and only long-term, collaborative strategies will allow us to address the problem."

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