Bipartisan legislation seeks to boost retention of military nurses

While the nursing shortage is nothing new, the government is seeking new ways to combat it within its military healthcare system. Legislators have proposed a bill that aims to retain skilled nurses at military medical facilities while they pursue higher education.

The Retain Educated Workers and Registered Nurses Developing Experience Act, also dubbed the REWARD Act, was introduced Dec. 4 by U.S. Sens. Ted Budd, R-N.C., and Patty Murray, D-Wash.

It would allow hiring managers of military medical facilities to waive certain qualifications or any general experience requirements for nurses, if they are deemed otherwise qualified, as they pursue additional education.

"During the pandemic, RNs had the highest rates of shortages within the military healthcare system compared to other positions," a supporting document from the senators reads. "Over 85% of (Department of Defense) facilities reported nursing shortages during the pandemic and in January 2023, 80% of civilian vacancies in the Defense Health Agency were healthcare personnel positions."

The current structure within the military healthcare system hires licensed practical nurses, but after receiving additional education, many transfer into the civilian market due to barriers that make it difficult for them to stay and maintain the same level of hierarchy and pay. But by allowing a waiver in certain cases to hire a nurse with an LPN license, nurses can obtain higher levels of education and return to the military health system expecting a similar level of promotional pay and status that they could get in the commercial market, the document explains.

If a hiring manager did decide to waive certain requirements upon hiring a nurse, the legislation requires that secondary verification of their qualifications still be conducted by human resources.

"Our new bipartisan legislation would provide a common-sense fix to incentivize skilled nurses to stay in the military healthcare system, where their services are so important to getting service members and their families timely access to high-quality care," Ms. Murray stated in a Dec. 4 news release. "Staffing shortages are a challenge for healthcare facilities across the country, and we must keep working to find ways to retain qualified and experienced nurses in military healthcare facilities and ensure service members and their families get the care they deserve — I'm proud to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to get that done."

The bill is also supported by the National Military Family Association and the Military Officers Association of America.

Copyright © 2024 Becker's Healthcare. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy. Cookie Policy. Linking and Reprinting Policy.


Featured Whitepapers

Featured Webinars