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KU School of Nursing releases findings from statewide stakeholder meeting on nursing crisis

The findings show themes around data collection, relationship-building and best practices.

A faculty member observes a nursing student practicing drawing blood from the arm of another nursing student
Like many other states, Kansas is in the midst of a nursing crisis with shortages of nurses and nursing faculty. Statistics show that simply increasing the numbers of new student nurses is not enough to replace nurses leaving the profession because of burnout or retirement.

Today, the University of Kansas School of Nursing released a report detailing findings from a March 21 meeting in Topeka that brought together numerous stakeholders from across Kansas to launch a statewide conversation on the nursing shortage and related crises.

According to presentations at the meeting and summarized in the report, the nursing crisis is both deep and wide.

“We are troubled by data showing high levels of vacancies, increased separations and projections for growth in all areas of nursing—certified nurse aides, licensed practical nurses, registered nurses and advanced practice nurses,” said Amy L. Garcia, DNP, FAAN, clinical associate professor at KU School of Nursing. “These shortages exist across the state, but they are most critical in rural and under-resourced areas. A shortage of nurses means that hospital beds and services must be reduced, putting critical-access hospitals at even higher risk of closing.”

Those were the issues that brought stakeholders to the meeting in Topeka, which is projected to be the first of many.

“That meeting and discussion were a great start to building a coalition to bring systemic change,” said Sally L. Maliski, Ph.D., FAAN, dean of KU School of Nursing. “The goal of the meeting was to start a collaborative discussion to solve nursing workforce issues in Kansas, including strengthening the nursing pipeline, retaining experienced nurses, developing nurse leaders and data collection and sharing. The group also strived to identify future activities and additional leaders who need to join us at the table.”

Several themes emerged from that meeting, including the need to:

  • Collect good, specific and actionable data that is easy to access
  • Project a positive nursing image to the public as well as to potential students as early as middle and high school
  • Improve the nursing pipeline, progression and retention
  • Collaborate and share resources among stakeholders
  • Create strong relationships to shoulder this work
  • Convene the stakeholders regularly to work together to solve nursing workforce problems and celebrate the nursing workforce
  • Celebrate the contribution of nurses

The need for data was a prominent talking point in the small group discussions in March.

“Stakeholders are asking for better, real-time, decision support for health care administration, planning and policy,” Garcia said. “We envision bringing together data from government, associations, schools, health care and other employers to generate new solutions to complex problems. For example, today we can estimate how many nurses are licensed in each county. We don't know what their skill sets are, how many are working or their plans. That kind of information would be invaluable to schools, employers and our elected officials.”

The group also discussed what success would look like if a nursing leadership and workforce center were established in Kansas. Key points to that discussion included:

  • Creating a one-stop shop for nursing workforce information
  • Increasing nursing student and faculty applications
  • Looking to other states for nursing workforce center best practices
Next steps

It is anticipated that future stakeholder meetings will be held in southeast Kansas, central Kansas and western Kansas to build on these conversations and findings.

“While we know that nursing workforce shortages and calls for leadership development are prevalent across the state, we also know that the specifics of those challenges and the solutions for addressing them look different depending on where you are,” said Heather Nelson-Brantley, Ph.D., assistant professor of nursing at KU. “It is critical that we engage stakeholders across the state, that everyone has a voice and place at the table for creating solutions. This is an effort by Kansans for Kansans.”

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