Skilled nursing facilities have been desperately seeking nurses. Retention at nursing home facilities is some of the lowest in the profession and it has proved difficult to adequately staff them especially post-pandemic. Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves recently announced that he signed a bill that creates the “Skilled Nursing Home and Hospital Nurses Retention Loan Repayment Program.”
About Senate Bill 2373
Senate Bill 2373 incentivizes nurses to continue working in Mississippi after successfully graduating from nursing school. The bill passed 49-3 in a Senate vote. The bill then passed 110-5 in the House vote. Rep. Dana Criswell (R-Olive Branch) and Steve Hopkins (R-Southaven) voted against and state Rep. Dan Eubanks (R-Walls) was listed as absent or not voting.
“This legislation will strengthen the pipeline of medical professionals and improve the quality of care for all Mississippians,” said Reeves. “Innovation is the solution to our healthcare challenges and it is the solution to keeping talented Mississippians here.”
If the program is fully implemented, nurses who are educated in Mississippi and stay can earn up to $6,000 per year for up to three years. The program would be sponsored by the Mississippi Postsecondary Education Financial Assistance Board. The program was specifically designed for those working in nursing homes.
“Because the program was funded through the federal ARPA funds, there was not enough time for students to complete that full five-plus year process before the federal close-out year of 2026,” said Jennifer Rogers, Director of the Mississippi Office of Student Financial Aid. “So it really just became a timing issue, that we could not administer the program as it was set up using federal funds.”
The full bill can be read here.
Chief Operating Officer at the Mississippi Hospital Association Dr. Kim Hoover noted that this new bill will be helpful to future nurses but it does not address the current shortage and the problems hospitals and nursing homes are facing.
First reported in 2022, a survey conducted by the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) of 759 nursing home providers reported that 61% of the nursing homes were limiting admissions due to ongoing staffing shortages. In fact, 73% also admitted that there could be potential facility closures due to staffing concerns.
“We project that more than 400 nursing homes could close this year due to this workforce and economic crisis,” said Beth Martino, senior vice president of public affairs for the AHCA/NCAL.
The AHCA/NCAL reported that since 2015 over 1,000 skilled nursing homes have closed. During the COVID-19 pandemic over 12,000 residents were displaced due to closures. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, from February 2020 to November 2021, the number of workers in nursing homes and other care facilities dropped by 410,000 nationally.
In Iowa alone, 15 nursing homes closed in 2022. Montana saw 11 nursing homes close, or 16% of the state’s nursing homes, close in 2022. Nationally, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services reported recently that 129 nursing homes had closed in 2022.