Thanks to nurse leaders around the Commonwealth, the nursing shortage has moved from breakroom talk and conference room agendas among providers to statewide and national news coverage. The Kentucky Nurses Association recently hosted a press conference to discuss this urgent matter and the results of its October 2021 Survey of Nurses that revealed what’s most important to nurses, regarding work safety, emotional health, physical health and professional stability during the pandemic and beyond. KNA joined statewide nurse leaders to address Kentucky’s nursing shortage and made recommendations about how to combat this urgent issue.

Delanor Manson

Delanor Manson

Respondents identified both highly-rated explanations with both financial and non-financial implications for the nursing profession. Nurses offered the highly-rated non-financial explanations of exhaustion, lack of breaks during work, lack of support from management and lack of voice/influence as contributors to the nursing shortage. Highly-rated explanations with financial implications included insufficient nursing/support staff and not enough pay/financial incentives as primary contributors to the nursing shortage in Kentucky.

In addition, recent research findings show that a large percentage of advance practice nurses (APRNs) plan to retire in the next 10 years. In many rural areas of Kentucky, APRNs are the only care providers to serve patients and families in their communities. These nurses are fatigued by the continued fight against COVID with no clear resolution in sight. 

Many actions that would support the nursing workforce rely heavily on the availability and allocation of financial resources.

Here’s how you can help

The Kentucky Nurses Association Nursing Shortage Task Force outlined a plan that calls for $100 million utilizing ARPA funds to combat this critical issue and a seat at the table when the discussion of the allocation of ARPA funds is being discussed. Write a letter to your legislator and ask them to support this funding that will help nurses chose to stay in Kentucky and care for Kentuckians.

$20 million — Faculty retention, recruitment and reward for NCLEX pass rates and graduation rates. Colleges and school of nursing council to research why schools of nursing seats are unfilled.

$20 million — Loan forgiveness for nursing faculty, students, graduate nurses to work in underserved areas 2021-2026 and a CHFS application for the loan forgiveness grant through HRSA — 1 million a year in addition to this request.

$10 million — Nurse emeritus program to use retired nurses for support, augment staffing needs and retain novice nurses.

$50 million — Retention bonuses (incremental) only for local nurses who have stayed in the community to serve. Recruitment and marketing campaign that enhances the image of nursing and entices students to go to nursing school while ensuring current nurses feel recognized, gratitude and valued.

Remind lawmakers that nurses, at 90,000 strong in the Commonwealth, are the 53% of the healthcare work force in the state and that they are leaving the nursing roles and the profession entirely in record numbers. And many are taking travel nurse assignments in other states often making $150-$200 an hour along with hefty sign-on bonuses, as well as room and board. 

Here’s why it matters to all Kentuckians

Remember the nurse that helped your family when your son was in a car accident? Think about the nurse who helped bring your children into the world. Think about how nurses kept your mom comfortable at the end of her life. What about that time a nurse was so helpful at your doctor’s office? Consider the nurse who worked tirelessly to care for someone you loved as she battled COVID-19. Remember the nurse that gave you the COVID vaccine? Now, consider how you and your loved ones would live without this type of expert care. It’s a frightening thought and we can work together to stop it.

It’s time for everyone who has received the superior care and compassion that nurses provide to make their voices known. Thank you in advance for reaching out to lawmakers and making a positive difference in the lives of all Kentuckians. 

Delanor Manson is chief executive officer of the Kentucky Nurses Association/Kentucky Nurses Foundation/Kentucky Nurses Action Coalition. She can be emailed through Stephanie Smith at

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