West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice holds a virtual briefing with members of the media.
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice holds a virtual briefing with members of the media.

Gov. Justice: State to spend nearly $50 million to improve education, retention and recruitment of nurses

During Tuesday’s COVID-19 briefing, Gov. Jim Justice announced that West Virginia will invest $48 million in a new program to improve and expand nursing education, retention, and recruitment in the state

“We have a shortage of nurses right now in West Virginia,” Gov. Justice said. “Last year alone, 1,700 West Virginia nurses didn’t renew their license, and 68% of them said the reason they didn’t is because they were just plain tired.”

“Our hospitals are overrun and understaffed,” Gov. Justice continued. “That’s why we need to start this program to aggressively recruit, staff, and train more and more nurses.”

The initiative will tackle the recent nursing shortage on multiple fronts.

Education – The program will expand nursing programs and increase scholarship opportunities for both faculty and students at three West Virginia institutions – Concord University, Glenville State College, and BridgeValley Community and Technical College – while also continuing work to expand similar programs at other West Virginia institutions.

Retention – The program will also incentivize West Virginia’s current workforce of nurses and evaluate scope of practice to alleviate burdens and provide new opportunities for skilled workers.

Recruitment – Additionally, the program will expand the nursing workforce by recruiting healthcare professionals from surrounding states and major metropolitan areas to work in West Virginia.

“Not only will this give us a boost in West Virginia, but it could very well set an example across our entire country,” Gov. Justice said.

The Governor was joined for the announcement by Dr. Cynthia Persily of the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission, Glenville State College President Mark Manchin, Concord University President Kendra Boggess, and BridgeValley Community and Technical College President Casey Sacks.

“It’s been especially visible and true over the last few years that nurses are the heart of our healthcare system. Their work and dedication are invaluable. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the critical shortages of nurses that we have, both in West Virginia as well as across the nation,” Dr. Persily said. “Governor, we would like to thank you for this remarkable investment. We are ready to get to work and we believe this is a tremendous way to strengthen our West Virginia nursing workforce for the future and to secure the health and well-being of all West Virginians.”

“No words can adequately describe how I feel about today,” President Manchin said. “We’re excited about this opportunity, and I want to say ‘thank you’ to Governor Justice for taking this initiative. It’s going to make a real difference.”

“As we all continue to navigate the challenges of COVID-19, the demand for healthcare workers is greater than ever. Concord University is very grateful for the opportunity to serve the region and the state by establishing a nursing program,” President Boggess said. “I cannot tell you how excited we all are. I want to thank you especially, Governor Justice, for making this happen.”

“Thank you so much, Governor Justice. This is a really big deal for BridgeValley. We thank you for selecting us,” President Sacks said. “Our nursing faculty are absolutely some of the very best in the state, and we’re all really excited to be able to expand the program and do more good work for the people of West Virginia. So we greatly appreciate your faith in us and we are excited to work with the state to be able to expand this important program.”

Gov. Justice went on to spotlight a recent statement released by the West Virginia Hospital Association that underscores the concerns caused by the nursing shortage.

“Projections show that for the 2021 holiday season, we will approach the highest number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in West Virginia since the pandemic began. The vast majority of patients in the ICU and on ventilators are unvaccinated and the national shortage of monoclonal antibodies has greatly restricted access to an effective treatment option. In addition, we are seeing high numbers of patients with other medical conditions requiring hospital care such as flu, heart diseases, cancer, and trauma. This combination has strained the health care system and now after nearly two years, the system is nearing a breaking point as health care workers are mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted.”

“Is this not testimony to exactly what we ought to be doing?” Gov. Justice said. “Absolutely, we want to commit in this direction right here; to give our hospitals within this state the adequate staffing that they truly need.”

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