Building an Economy that Works for Everyone

Pay It Forward: A plan for Washington Nurse Educators

The need for health professionals has increased dramatically in recent years, putting the nursing profession at a crossroads. Washington is no exception, facing a looming shortage not only nurses – which is expected to grow in the coming years – but also nurse educators.

To meet the burgeoning need for nurses, Washington state nursing programs need to recruit and retain an increasing number of nurse educators in the coming years. Otherwise the shortage of nurse educators will grow, and along with it, the staffing deficit across the entire nursing profession.

By removing the upfront tuition barrier facing many prospective nurse educators, Pay It Forward can help nurses acquire the advanced education needed in order to pursue much-needed faculty positions.

Under Pay It Forward, instead of paying tuition, graduates fund their education through post-graduation contributions of a fixed percentage of their income for a set number of years. Since contributions are income-based, professionals will be better able to afford to pursue faculty positions with (relatively) lower pay. And because tuition isn’t required upfront, more nurses will be able to suspend or limit work in mid-career to pursue an advanced degree while still supporting their families.

This proposal is for a pilot program, beginning with 50 full-time equivalent (FTE) students each year.

Washington policymakers must take steps to relieve the bottle neck in nurse training and education in order to maintain our state’s promise of high-quality and accessible health care. While it will take more than one innovative policy change to solve this problem, Pay It Forward for Nurse Educators promises to contribute to its resolution, by ensuring the production of nurse educators and new nurses.

Getting rid of upfront tuition for nurses looking to further their education will increase the number of doctorally prepared nurses eligible to become high-level nurse faculty and program administrators. At the same time, replacing high-interest student loans with a completely income-based contribution will allow more of those qualified nurses to follow their passion and become nurse educators.

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