Letter to the Editor by Helm on The Nursing Shortage: Solutions for the Short and Long Term

The Nursing Shortage: Is This Cycle Different?

February 4, 2002

response by Mary Ann Helm to The Nursing Shortage: Solutions for the Short and Long Term by Brenda Nevidjon, RN, MSN and Jeanette Ives Erickson, RN, MS, CNA (Jan. 31, 2001)
with reply by author

Dear Editor:

After reading your article on the Nursing Shortage: Solutions for the Short and Long Term, I can't help but think of the large number of nursing students who have to work full or part time while going to school. As an Assistant Professor at a University School of Nursing, I see many students who are highly motivated to become nurses, but have to struggle financially to attend school.

When I attended college in the 1960s, I was fortunate enough to receive nursing loans and scholarships that enabled me to focus on studying and attending classes rather than having to work full time while in school. A Federal Nursing Education loan forgave 10% per year of the debt for the first five years after graduation, as long as I continued to work full time in nursing. Later students were forgiven the full amount of the loan over a ten year period if they continued to work full time. Besides enabling me to get a high quality education, these loans motivated me to continue to work in the field of nursing.

We lose many students today because of financial problems that interfere with their school work. Nursing education is more difficult than ever. Average students are hard pressed to succeed, especially when financial demands take much of their study time. Yet, many average students make wonderful, caring nurses when they can succeed in the educational program. Although we cannot make the curriculum easier if we are to produce well-qualified nursing graduates, we as a nation can lighten the financial burden of the cost of a nursing education. I will contact my Representative and Senators in Washington today to encourage them to support two bills that would provide, among other things, scholarships and loan repayments for nurses who agree to work in shortage areas. These bills, the Nurse Reinvestment Act (H.R. 1436, S. 706) and the Nursing Employment and Education Development (NEED) Act (S. 721), are needed to enable nursing students to join the ranks of our profession and help us provide adequate nursing care to our society.

Mary Ann Helms, MSN,RN
Assistant Professor
Tennessee State University
School of Nursing
Nashville, TN