NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The door is always open at Neighborhood Health at Downtown Nashville. It’s one of the reasons nurse practitioner Holly Cline chose to work there.
“I love it and I love my patients.”
Cline serves patients with few healthcare options. She wanted to work with the under served but with a lower salary and high cost of nursing school, it was an expensive decision to make.
“Nurse Corps helps you serve the people you want to serve,” said Cline, “…and not go bankrupt.”
Nurses accepted into the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program get up to 85-percent of their student loans paid in exchange for working full-time in a Critical Shortage Facility in a high-need area.
The need for nurses across Tennessee is expected to grow. A study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services predicts a near 22% shortage of nurses by 2030. Tennessee is one of 33 states nationwide expected to have fewer nurses working than needed.
It’s a concern Dean Linda Norman has been studying and helping to address for years.
“We admit as many people as reasonable,” explained Dean Norman, Vanderbilt University School of Nursing and Valere Potter Menefee Professor of Nursing.
Vanderbilt has one of the largest nursing schools in the country, averaging 850 students at any time.
“There are a lot of people who are interested in coming into nursing but schools are not able to accommodate everybody who wants to come in, or who is eligible to come in,” explained Dean Norman. “There is sort of 2-fold, there is going to be a shortage of nurses but we also have a shortage of nursing faculty and you have got to have enough faculty to admit more students.”
Dean Norman points to an aging population as one of the needs for more nurses. The economy plays a supporting role as nurses put off retirement after 2008’s recession and are leaving work earlier as the economy continues to improve.
“I think we have done a really good job in trying to acquaint people with why it’s important to be a nurse. That’s why we have more applicants than what we did 20 years ago,” said Dean Norman. The next step is to, “keep those new nurses in the workplace, in the areas where they’re needed as staff nurses.”
Dean Norman says “it’s going to be a big priority for health care organizations.”
The expected shortage is one reason why incentives, like those offered through Nurse Corps, are being used more in recruitment and retention. It ensures nurses like Cline are able to give patients the care they need.
“I don’t have to worry about that student loan repayment every month, which would be quite high, to do what i love and want to do,” said Cline.
According to data from the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, the average salary for a registered nurse in Tennessee is $60,122. The average salary for a nurse practitioner is $96,433.