Funding Dilemma Affects Nursing

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There are over 30,000 registered nurses in the state of Mississippi, but as the nation gears up to show their appreciation, the fight continues for more funding in a field that is outgrowing its workforce.

"We have got to have more nurses in this state, in order to provide the health care in this state that people deserve," said Betty Dickson, executive director of Mississippi Nurses Association.

Dickson took time out from lobbying legislators in Jackson to visit with USM's School of Nursing at the Meridian Campus. She is all too familiar with the nursing shortages and says the problem lies in the lack of teachers, forcing schools to turn away applicants.

"We are expecting about 2,000 openings for positions next year. At the same time, we had to turn away 1,600 qualified applicants from schools, in a time when we have a big shortage," said Dickson.

You can probably guess the problem. There's not enough money to hire more instructors at the state's 21 accredited nursing schools. In addition, 25 percent of current instructors are eligible for retirement. Not to mention, the private sector offers more competitive salaries to help fill the rising vacancies.

"I honestly don't know what is going to happen over there, but I hope they can find away to fund all of education," Dickson said.

There simply may not be enough money to go around. The regular legislative session is set to end May 9.