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COLUMN BY REPRESENTATIVE MIKE SHIRKEY, OCT 31, 2013

Nursing is a critically important profession in Michigan that I highly recommend to anyone who is interested in helping people.  While serving on the board of Allegiance Health in Jackson, I had the distinct privilege to interact with many in the nursing field who serve as the backbone of our health-care system.  They spoke highly of their chosen profession and received great satisfaction while helping patients.


 

But our health-care industry is in for many challenges in the near-term, including an upcoming nursing shortage. Baby Boomers who are nurses are reaching retirement age, and the millions of other Baby Boomers across the country will need health care services.  In fact, the number of needed nurses will grow from 2.74 million in 2010 to 3.45 million in 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. There will be a need for 495,500 replacements in the nursing work force, bringing the total number of job openings for nurses to 1.2 million by 2020.

To meet this shortfall Michigan must ensure that people looking to choose new career paths know the need we have in nursing, and have more options to get the training they need.  To help address the potential shortages in nursing, our office has introduced legislation allowing community colleges to offer four-year degrees in six areas of education, including nursing, to increase more affordable opportunities closer to home.

House Bill 4148 enables community colleges to offer bachelor's degrees in nursing along with other fields of study, including allied health, information technology and manufacturing.   If this bill is signed into law, institutions like Jackson Community College could start offering four-year nursing degrees along with their extensive programs they already offer.



Last session the Legislature got off to a good start and opened the way for community colleges to offer four-year degrees in culinary arts, concrete technology, energy production and maritime technology. Nursing was originally in that bill, but was removed prior to passage.  Now is the time to revisit this important issue in order to give more young people who are eager to become nurses the opportunity to do so.


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