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Filling shortages in nursing ranks

Workforce challenges have hit just about every industry in West Virginia, though some have been feeling the pinch for longer than others. It was necessary years ago to start looking for solutions in the field of nursing. Efforts have been under way here to attract, retain, educate and support nurses, and it seems as though some are bearing fruit.

West Virginia’s Center for Nursing released its 2021 data to provide “the public and stakeholders with vital information about the current state of the nursing workforce in West Virginia and offers areas where we can improve,” according to Gerald Bragg, chair of the West Virginia Center for Nursing’s board.

From 2020-21, the number of registered nurses working here increased by 2%. According to the Center for Nursing, that means efforts to expand nursing programs, recruit out-of-state nurses and help those with lapsed licenses to re-enter the field are working.

Meanwhile, during the same period, the number of RNs and advanced practiced registered nurses under the age of 50 increased, as well. New nurses are entering the workforce.

But there is still a problem. More than 13.6% of nurses licensed in the Mountain State are instead working in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, Kentucky and Maryland.

This means, “The state should consider additional ways to retain nurses in West Virginia and recruit out-of-state nurses who are already licensed in West Virginia to join the state’s nursing workforce,” according to the Center for Nursing.

We are making progress. There is proof that efforts to tackle some aspects of the shortage have been effective. Officials should heed the advice of the Center for Nursing and get to work on convincing some of those licensed to work here to do so. It is likely the most difficult part of the challenge, but one that must be addressed.

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