DENVER — On Wednesday, Colorado's Department of Higher Education and the Governor's office will convene higher education leaders, nursing school deans and health care professionals to discuss the state's growing shortage of nurses. Nurses are in high demand nationwide as the country's population ages and more experienced nurses retire.
Daniel Baer, the executive director for the Colorado Department of Higher Educaiton, says in 2016 there were 10 percent more nursing job openings than there were degree completions in Colorado.
"Different things affect the nursing shortage," says Baer. "The number of people who move in, growing population, the changing aging population changes the demand for nurses."
Colorado has tried to help grow the number of nursing graduates in the state. This year the state legislature passed a bill expanding nursing programs in colleges.
"It allows community college system, which was certifying nurses through two-year program, to begin offering a four-year program," Baer said.
But he says the state needs to make sure nursing schools are all on the same page, and that programs are tailored to the needs of Colorado.
"Florida had a massive expansion of nursing education providers and they're projected to have oversupply of nurses," he said.
Another challenge is making sure nurses who are already trained stay in their jobs, and the state also hopes to recruit nurses back to the profession. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing says a growing number of nurses are leaving the profession, citing insufficient staffing levels and job stress.
Baer says Colorado needs to find ways to make the nursing field more attractive.
"There are a number of nurses licensed in Colorado who are either working in some other field or not participating in the work force," he said.
Already hospitals in Colorado and around the country are offering huge monetary incentives. UC Health typically offers a $5,000 signing bonus, but in some cases up to $10,000. UC Health also offers relocation expenses, and help with continuing education.
Colorado Nursing Convening