Affordable Care Act

Federal Money Flows To Houston To Train Additional Higher-Level Nurses

Texas has been grappling with a shortage of doctors and nurses for years. Now a provision of the Affordable Care Act aims to tackle the nursing shortage, and the Texas Medical Center in Houston is set to receive millions of dollars to train more nurses.

When the Affordable Care Act goes fully into effect in 2014, up to 4 million uninsured Texans could qualify for health coverage.

That has prompted worries about who exactly will care for all the newly-insured people?

Over the past decade, nursing schools in Texas have been increasing their enrollment, but they’re still not churning out enough nurses to meet the demand.

Polly Bednash is the CEO of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

“Nursing schools were forced to turn away more than 75,000 qualified applications from entry-level baccalaureate and graduate programs last year.”

Nursing schools say one reason they can’t increase class size is because there are not enough clinical spots where student nurses can practice.

But as part of the new health care law, the federal government will release up to $200 million to five hospitals nationwide to provide more clinical sites for student nurses.

One of them is Memorial Hermann Hospital in the Texas Medical Center. And local nursing schools are thrilled.

 “I think it’s fantastic. It’s just a wonderful accomplishment.”

Nancy Busen is an assistant nursing dean at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston. She says the money will focus on advanced practice nurses, who receive master’s degrees and can fill the gaps in primary care, anesthesia and other medical areas. 

“Advanced practice nurses will be in key positions to assume a lot of the care for the people that will be eligible for insurance under the Affordable Care Act.”

Busen says some APNs can provide critical anesthesia services, particularly in rural parts of Texas.

Others work as midwives or can provide primary care in neighborhoods where there’s a doctor shortage.

They can also prescribe medication.

“A lot of those common minor illnesses, some management of chronic disease like diabetes, hypertension can be managed by many of the nurse practitioners.”

The four local nursing schools include UTMB, Texas Women’s University and Prairie View A&M.

As a group, they’ll be able to graduate 100 additional advanced practice nurses ever year under the program.

From the KUHF Health and Science Desk, I’m Carrie Feibel.