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Arizona will spend millions on fixing nursing shortage

Legislation signed by Gov. Doug Ducey last week allocates funds to help Arizona's students get through nursing school.

PHOENIX — Editor's Note: The video above is from an earlier broadcast.

Gov. Doug Ducey has signed legislation that allocates resources to address Arizona's health care staffing shortages.  

House Bill 2691 allocates up to $15 million during the current fiscal year toward establishing the Nurse Education Investment Pilot Program, which provides funding for nursing programs at public universities and community colleges.  

The pilot program specifically aims to increase the number of nursing faculty at local colleges. 

Arizona's lack of health care workers has become exacerbated in recent years as local hospitals have grappled with maintaining regular operations amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

State Rep. Joanne Osborne, R-Goodyear, sponsored the legislation and said it's necessary to address the many vacancies for registered nurses seen throughout the state.

"We are struggling in Arizona and need to take major steps in filling our nursing pipeline," Osborne said during a legislative meeting.

RELATED: Critical nursing shortage expected to last for years in Arizona

Joy Upshaw, the chief nursing officer at Tucson Medical Center, said a lack of employees is forcing her facility to spend millions on premium pay to ensure staffing levels are met.   

Upshaw told lawmakers that her hospital lost 250 nurses last year and has about 300 open positions. 

"Without a big change, like the one (House Bill) 2691 supports, we will not be able to sustain quality health care," Upshaw told state lawmakers earlier this year.

The bill additionally provides funding to expand clinical placement opportunities for nursing students.

According to legislative documents, the nursing education program is intended to remain in effect for the next three years. While the program is operational, state agencies will be obligated to annually report the number of local nurses who completed studies. 

RELATED: Valleywise Health closes 118 psychiatric beds due to staffing shortages

RELATED: Maricopa County attempting to fix nursing shortage

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