Governor signs Holy bill to address nurse shortage

A bipartisan bill sponsored by 6th District Sen. Jeff Holy that helps address Washington’s nursing shortage was signed by Gov. Jay Inslee today.

Senate Bill 5582 aims to increase the number of nurses in the state by reducing barriers and expanding educational opportunities in this field.

Holy said the state Employment Security Department has reported that nursing is the occupation most in demand by employers in Washington.

“We have a great demand for nurses but there are many nursing positions that are unfilled,” said Holy, the ranking Republican on the Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee. “Our nursing shortage could have a negative impact on our state’s health-care system. The nurse shortage is a problem not only for hospitals but also nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. This bill is a good way to encourage more people to become registered nurses and licensed practical nurses so we can address this important need.”

SB 5582 gives the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges until December 2024 to develop a plan to train more nurses. The plan must prioritize expanding or creating programs that increase capacity to train nurses at the Bachelor of Nursing level, expand training opportunities for rural and underserved students, and are in partnership with public four-year universities. The bill also directs the SBCTC to develop an online curriculum to earn a licensed practical nurse credential.

Holy’s measure also creates a pilot project that brings high-school students in training to become certified nursing assistants together with understaffed rural hospitals, to help address workforce shortages while promoting nursing careers in rural hospitals.

“Rural communities in our state have especially been affected by the nursing shortage,” said Holy, R-Cheney. “The lack of nurses in rural hospitals is forcing patients to drive long distances to see a nurse and receive treatment. This bill will help ensure there will be enough nurses in rural hospitals.”

SB 5582 was passed by the Senate 48-0 on March 6 and 97-0 by the House of Representatives on April 7.