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OR Measure Puts Nursing Students ‘On Deck’ to Address Shortage

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A measure passed in the Oregon Legislature would allow nursing students to become licensed to perform certain tasks in a hospital. It’s seen as a way to provide more nurses as the state faces a shortage.

Oregon lawmakers have concluded the legislative session with a measure aimed at alleviating the state’s nursing shortage. In it’s final week, the Legislature passed House Bill 4003, a measure that will allow nursing students to gain a license so they can work with limited duties and gain experience in hospitals. Idaho and Washington already have similar nurse intern licenses. Jana Bitton, who heads the Oregon Center for Nursing, says there was a shortage of nurses before the pandemic, but COVID-19 has made the problems worse.

“A lot of people that I’ve talked to, within the nursing community and outside of the nursing community, all have horror stories of themselves or a family member or a friend who’s become ill, with COVID or with something else, and having to go to the emergency room and sitting through extraordinarily long waits to be able to see a provider,” said Bitton.

Bitton says the shortage is greater in certain work settings and rural parts of the state. Some critics have balked at the idea of student nurses providing care. The Oregon Nursing Association says the bill is a great first step, but more is needed to alleviate the shortage.

Bitton says the newly created license will also help ensure that future nurses can support themselves.

“That licensure is really going to help nursing students, who need to get a place where they can practice their skills while they’re in school, give them an opportunity to make money and support their education, said Bitton. But it will also help workplaces enhance their workforce.”

The bill also expands a wellness program to registered nurses so they access free therapy sessions. Bitton says the pandemic and other events like wildfires have taken a mental toll on nurses.

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