West Virginia will use $48 million in stimulus funds for the recruitment and training of new nurses over the next four years, Gov. Jim Justice said Tuesday.
The goal is to create over 2,000 nurses over the next four years on top of the numbers of nurses currently graduating in the state, Justice’s deputy chief of staff Ann Urling said, who will eventually replace those that left.
“We’re going to flood West Virginia with quality, great nurses,” Justice said, according to WSAZ-TV. “This $48 million will renew, and renew, and renew from an economic impact within our state.”
During a COVID briefing, Justice said approximately 1,700 nurses did not renew their state licenses during the pandemic last year. He said 68 percent of those who left nursing said they were “just plain tired” and “pushed to the very limit” from the pandemic’s difficulties.
The state has $79 million left in stimulus funds to allocate by the end of the year, according to WCHS-TV. Justice said that some of the relief money will go toward a recruitment program to enlist medical help from out-of-state, but did not release details.
West Virginia COVID czar Dr. Clay Marsh and Justice continue to advocate for vaccinations and boosters shots, warning that nearby states are beginning to see a surge in cases due to the Omicron variant, WCHS-TV reported.
Marsh is concerned the Omicron variant will overwhelm hospitals, saying that it will happen to the state “in the next weeks to a couple or three months,” according to WCHS-TV.
On Monday, the West Virginia Hospital Association warned that hospitals continue to be stressed with high numbers of patients and that staffing shortages are expected to continue for the time being. In addition, projections show that the number of people hospitalized for the virus during the holiday season will approach the record of more than 1,000 set in September. There were 605 COVID-19 hospital patients statewide Tuesday, according to state health figures.
The initiative will fund nursing scholarships, develop a nursing faculty loan repayment program, and increase both LPN and RN training program capacity, said Cynthia Persily, senior director of health sciences for the state Higher Education Policy Commission.
Persily said creative ways are being looked at to solve immediate nursing shortages.
“Part of this is going to be recruitment of nurses from other parts of the country, which of course is no small challenge given that this is a national shortage,” Persily said. “That recruitment into the state will be an important part of the solution as well.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.