New rules sought for nursing students

Bill would allow Md. aid to be used at schools in other states

General Assembly

March 25, 2004|By Sandy Alexander | Sandy Alexander,SUN STAFF

A bill introduced yesterday in the Maryland General Assembly seeks to help some of the hundreds of nursing students turned away from Maryland schools each year by allowing them to use a state scholarship at out-of-state schools.

Rising interest in nursing careers has overwhelmed four-year schools and community colleges. School officials say they must turn away more than 400 applicants a year, largely because of a shortage of nursing faculty and limited clinical space.

"We've done an excellent job of recruiting people to go into nursing," said Sen. Paula C. Hollinger, a Baltimore County Democrat who introduced the bill. "Now we're telling them, `We're glad you came, but we can't take you.' "

The bill would change the regulations for a state nursing scholarship program. Qualified students who can show they were rejected from a Maryland school because of a lack of space would be eligible for the scholarship - an award of up to $4,500 per year - and would be allowed to take it to a school in another state.

Like in-state students, they would then be asked to work as a nurse in Maryland when they complete their education.

"What we're saying is, we don't want to lose these nurses," Hollinger said, noting that for some students, a school in Delaware, Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C., or West Virginia is a nearby alternative. Others may choose to go farther from home.

"Maryland has had a history of collaboration with other states to provide programs that we don't have," said Dawn Marks, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Hospital Association.

"We're supportive of those collaborations, but we'd ideally like to train our own nurses and we're working toward that," she said.

Marks said that a recent $1.5 million federal grant is one example of the steps Maryland is taking to deal with shortages of health care workers.

The grant will be used to offer scholarships to registered nurses (RNs) to earn their teaching credentials.

It would also offer money to other health care workers to become RNs, replacing those who move on to teaching positions, according to the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. Additional funds would go toward training existing health care workers to upgrade their skills.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services expects Maryland to be short by 13,000 RNs by 2015.

"We have been looking at the nursing shortage for a long time," Hollinger said. By submitting her bill as an emergency measure after the regular deadline, she hopes to offer some immediate relief.

"We want you to get your education wherever you can at this point," she said. "Then we want you back here."

Assembly action

VOTING MACHINES: The Senate approved yesterday a version of a Baltimore City elections bill that stripped out a provision that would have let Baltimore keep its current voting machines while the state adopts touch-screen machines. An amendment cut the cost to the city by letting it provide one machine per 400 voters at a polling place rather than one per 200 as provided in a previous statewide voting system law.

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