Senate Bill 931 was sponsored by Sen. Maggie Crotty, D-Oak
Forest; Sen. Carol Ronen, D-Chicago; and Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie.
"Nurses are on the front lines of health care and have the most
direct and continuing contact with patients," Blagojevich said. "As
baby boomers grow older, Illinois faces the challenge of providing
for their growing demands on the health care system while also
making up for the retirement of a generation of nurses. This law
will help us train more nurses to fill the gap."
The number of potential caregivers, including nurses, is
projected to decrease 4.2 percent between 2000 and 2020, while the
number of those who need care is projected to increase by 31
percent. All told, by 2020 Illinois could be facing a shortage of
over 21,000 nurses. According to region-by-region numbers put
together by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic
Opportunity, the state currently has a nursing shortage of 7 percent
(vacancies versus jobs filled), and that shortage is projected to
grow to almost 8,000 registered nurses and 1,200 licensed practical
nurses (per year, projected through 2010).
The governor's fiscal 2007 budget includes $3.5 million to launch
important initiatives aimed at preventing a severe nursing shortage.
"Nurse educators are an important, if often unseen, link in our health care
system," said Crotty. "By establishing this program we increase the instructors
for nursing students who are currently turned away because there aren't enough
classroom nurse educators. With this scholarship program, nurses can go back to
school, teach nursing and open the nursing field to more students."
"This bill provides the necessary tools to address the nursing
shortage in Illinois," said Ronen. "By providing educational
incentives, we can hopefully encourage more Illinoisans to join the
"With this law, Illinois has made a firm commitment to the
nursing profession," said Lang. "We are creating opportunities for
nurse educators that this state desperately needs. Without the
support of Governor Blagojevich and my colleagues in the General
Assembly, Illinois would be facing a crisis in direct care of its
"The Illinois Nurses Association commends Governor Blagojevich
for his visionary leadership in signing this hallmark legislation
that creates an Illinois Center for Nursing and provides
scholarships, fellowships and grants to nurse educators," said
Kathleen Perry, Ph.D., R.N. and president of the Illinois Nurses
Association. "Increasing the number of nurse educators in Illinois'
nursing programs means increased numbers of nurses will be available
to meet the public's need for health care services. While this
legislation is good for nurses, the real winners are the people in
Illinois who need nursing care services."
"The legislation Governor Blagojevich is signing is critical to
assure the public of nursing care. By creating a Center for Nursing
the governor has provided a process to determine the work force
needs of nurses in Illinois and hopefully prevent another nursing
shortage in the future," said Gail Van Kannegan, A.P.N., N.P. and
president of the Illinois Society for Advanced Practice Nursing. "A
large part of the groundbreaking legislation is for the state to
invest in nursing by providing nurse educator scholarships, grants
and fellowships to encourage them to stay in school. More nursing
educators will increase the number of nursing students educated and
lead to improving the current nursing shortage. The Illinois Society
for Advanced Practice Nursing applauds Governor Blagojevich for
making the nursing profession a priority."
"The governor's multipronged approach to address the nursing
shortage provides creative solutions involving nursing education,
the source of more nurses. This bill does this through the formation
of a Nursing Center, strategically enhanced nurse educator
scholarships and loan repayments, grants for nursing schools to
build capacity, and salary support fellowships for faculty. This
crucial legislation will lead the way for strengthening the nursing
work force at all levels, resulting in improved patient care and
lower health care costs," said Joan L. Shaver, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N.
and dean of the University of Illinois at Chicago College of
The governor's proposal was developed after consultation with
leaders in nursing education in Illinois. Administration officials
met with teaching hospitals, accredited nursing schools and
representatives of various nursing associations in the state. The
legislation signed Tuesday will address the shortage of nurses in a
number of ways:
Establishes a center that will be
responsible for assessing the current supply and demand for nurses
in Illinois and developing a strategic plan to ensure that the state
can train, recruit and retain the nurses that are needed. The newly
created advisory board will work with nursing schools, hospitals and
nurses from varied geographic regions and specialties to make
recommendations for long-term systemic changes that may be needed.
Scholarships for nursing educators -- Creates a Nurse
Educator Scholarship Program, to be administered by the Illinois
Student Assistance Center. The program awards scholarships for
nursing education students to cover tuition, fees and living
expenses for training as nurse educators. In exchange, the newly
trained educators must commit to teaching at an Illinois nursing
school for at least five years.
existing nursing scholarships -- Amends the existing Nursing
Education Scholarship law to allow merit, in addition to
financial need, to be taken into consideration when determining
recipients of the nursing scholarship. Students who have both
financial need and the proven ability to meet the rigorous
academic standards needed to complete nursing programs are more
likely to complete their education and work in the nursing
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Creates the Illinois
Nurse Educator Loan Repayment Program through the Illinois Student
Assistance Center. The program allows current nurse educators to
receive $5,000 in student loan forgiveness a year, for up to four
years. For every year of student loan forgiveness they receive, they
must agree to continue working as a nurse educator. To be eligible,
a nurse educator must be a resident of Illinois and have worked for
at least a year teaching in a nursing program in Illinois. This
program will be up and running next year.
Nurse Educator Loan Repayment Program --
competitive grant for nursing schools to increase the number of
nurses graduating from Illinois nursing programs. The grants can be
used for a number of purposes, including but not limited to student
retention programs, increasing faculty, increasing clinical space,
creation of an evening or weekend program, and tutoring programs for
the national nursing licensing exam. The Illinois Board of Higher
Education will administer the program.
Competitive grant for nursing schools --
Nurse Educator Fellowship Program, to be administered by the
Illinois Board of Higher Education. The program will award
fellowships, on a competitive basis, to supplement the salaries of
nursing school faculty.
Fellowships for nursing school faculty --
The legislation also contains an initiative that is part of the
governor's comprehensive Prairie State DNA Institute plan to enable
the state to do all forensic testing in its own labs. One of the
biggest challenges the state faces when it comes to DNA testing is
training and retaining enough forensic experts to work in its labs.
The bill creates a scholarship program that would help cover the
cost of graduate-level forensic science degrees at Illinois
universities for students who agree to work in state labs for at
least four years after graduation. Testing forensic samples at state
facilities is both more efficient and more cost-effective, and it
allows for better quality assurance.
Since 2003, Blagojevich has taken a broad array of actions to
deal with the nursing shortage and improve the working conditions
for Illinois nurses. The actions include these:
Also included in the fiscal 2007
budget is a significant investment in technology and personnel to
reduce the waiting time for nurses and other licensed professionals
to obtain new licenses or renew current licenses. The department
will implement the new licensing system in its Division of
Professional Regulation, which issues more than 900,000 of the
department's 1.2 million professional licenses. The new initiative
will reduce application processing time for professional licenses
from the current four to19 weeks to just one to four weeks -- an
improvement of more than 400 percent. The initiative is expected to
cost $1.5 million annually.
Critical Skills Shortage Initiative: The governor made a
commitment in his 2005 State of the State speech to address the
shortage of health care workers through his Critical Skills Shortage
Initiative. Approximately $10 million is being invested statewide to
ensure that every region of the state has a well-trained and
equipped work force in the health care industry. Through an
innovative approach that is currently being replicated by Indiana,
local work force investment boards, area employers, economic
development professionals, educators and service providers are
developing individualized strategies to address local employment
needs and to get more health care professionals into the work force.
Enhancing the Nursing Education Scholarship Program: The
Nursing Education Scholarship Program has become more effective
since additional funding was included in the reauthorization of the
Nursing Practice Act, signed by Blagojevich in 2004. The act
increased the percentage of license fees that are transferred into
the scholarship program. In 2006, there will be $1.2 million -- an
increase of $450,000 -- to provide approximately 150 students with
financial assistance to pursue an associate degree in nursing, an
associate degree in applied sciences in nursing, a hospital-based
diploma in nursing, a baccalaureate degree in nursing, a graduate
degree in nursing or a certificate in practical nursing.
Keeping nurses in Illinois: A new law enables
advanced-practice nurses to be licensed in more than one specialty
without having multiple graduate degrees as long as the nurses have
the educational and clinical experience to be nationally certified.
This encourages highly trained advanced-practice nurses to stay in
Illinois by making it easier for them to advance in their careers.
Establishing a first-in-the-nation externship program: Nurses
who are licensed under the laws of another state or territory of the
U.S., primarily from Puerto Rico, who wish to practice in Illinois
and are preparing to take the National Council Licensure
Examination, are now allowed to work under the direct supervision of
a registered professional nurse licensed in Illinois while they are
enrolled in a course which prepares them for the licensure exam and
acclimates them to nursing and health care delivery in our state.
This increases diversity within the nursing profession and prepares
nurses educated in a U.S. territory for practice in Illinois.
[News release from the governor's