Most public health statistics show Mississippi is the most unhealthy state in the nation, and a critical nurse shortage is hampering access to care for many residents. MPB's Daniel Cherry reports how advocates are calling for policy changes to alleviate the need for more people on the health care front lines.

" /> Leaders Hope to Address Mississippi’s Nurse Shortage | News | Mississippi Public Broadcasting
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Leaders Hope to Address Mississippi’s Nurse Shortage

By Daniel Cherry | Published 20 Feb 2012 04:51pm | comments

Most public health statistics show Mississippi is the most unhealthy state in the nation, and a critical nurse shortage is hampering access to care for many residents. MPB's Daniel Cherry reports how advocates are calling for policy changes to alleviate the need for more people on the health care front lines.

Mississippi has a nearly 10 percent shortage of registered nurses according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Recruiting nurses into the state is a big hurdle. Mississippi's 2nd District U.S. Congressman Bennie Thompson says there needs to be an easier pathway into the health care industry.

"They are the front line people addressing the issues of the sick in this country so we have to make sure that our schools are up to standard, but we also have to make sure that those students who want to go are not prohibited because they don't have the resources."

Thompson say the Affordable Health Care Act will provide funding to draw more students into health care by paying off student loans for those who work in medically underserved areas. Mississippi Senator Terry Burton is on the Senate Health Committee. He says the state could do more to incentivize growth of the health care industry.

"We can provide higher salaries for nurse educators, encourage people to go into the education side of nursing. We can put more funding into simulation programs so that rather than having to go to an institution to practice, you could have a simulated operating room."

Advocates say more nurse practitioners, who can serve as primary health care providers, could address many access to care issues. Gayle Harrell is the President of the Mississippi Nurses Association. She says the state needs to repeal a law requiring practitioners to be within 15 miles of a doctor.

"Well in our rural state that is just not feasible then to be able to give access to care because not only are there not enough physicians, it doesn't leave a way for us to move nurse practitioners in who've been in this state for 40 years."

It's estimated there is a need for more than 300 thousand nurses nationwide.

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