They're at the frontline of healthcare but their numbers are dwindling. There's a critical shortage of nurses in the country but the state of Illinois is in the process of making changes in order to lure more students and educators to the field. On Monday, several state leaders were in Rockford talking about the new plans.
Carl binger has been a nurse at SwedishAmerican for about 3 months.
"It's fast-paced, fun, every day is different," says Binger.
But the state of illinois needs more new nurses like binger...the problem...a shortage of nurses...and a shortage of nurse educators.
"The baby boomers are also nurses, so as they retire, we will see a continued loss of people in the workforce over the next 15 years," says Sue Driscoll, Vice President for Patient Care at SwedishAmerican.
On Monday, Dr. Eric Whitaker--the director of the Illinois Department of Public Health--made a stop at Saint Anthony College of Nursing to discuss the state's initiatives designed to reverse the shortage.
The state's plan will address the shortage in several ways including the creation of a center for nursing and the development of a nursing education scholarship, that will make pursuing a career in nursing education more affordable.
"If you compare salaries in the private sector or in the service sector, they're not as comparable to those that work in nursing education. So, other opportunities look better to people that are masters prepared nurses," says Beth Carson, Associate Dean for Saint Anthony College of Nursing.
The third initiative is providing grants to nursing schools.
"Grants allow for new facilities, to try innovations in terms of programs, having evening or weekend programs, or to hire additional faculty," says Dr. Eric Whitaker, Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health.
The state will also make changes to the existing nursing scholarship program and provide student loan repayment for nurse educators.
"They'll get their loans paid back one year for every year they commit to being a nurse educator," says Whitaker.
Dr. Whitaker says the state is taking action now because if things continue at this pace the state could be facing a shortage of more than 21,000 nurses by the year 2020.
Around 3 to 5 million dollars a year will be spent on these programs through 2020. The number of those who need care is projected to increase by 31-percent by 2020. The state is also trying to make nursing more appealing to men. It's still a female-dominated profession, although more and more men are becoming nurses.