Provider shortages affect everyone. When there are not enough health care providers, health access is limited – costs go up and wait times increase.
Despite a projected nursing shortage in Washington state, access to scholarship and loan repayment programs has not increased. Such programs help rural and underserved communities by incentivizing providers to locate there – and these programs help provide financial stability for nurses.
Washington State Opportunity Scholarship program
House Bill 2143 would expand the existing Opportunity Scholarship program to include students in eligible advanced degree health profession programs. Like the existing Health Profession Loan Repayment program, awards from the Opportunity Scholarship program would require a service obligation in a rural or underserved community. The existing Opportunity Scholarship program is a public-private partnership, so private health care entities would need to contribute funding to help pay for these scholarships.
Health Profession Loan Repayment program
Washington’s Health Profession Loan Repayment program is a crucial resource for providers who have incurred significant student loan debt, and who want to provide care in rural and underserved communities. Sixty awards are currently funded.
The unmet need in Washington state
This rise in demand is outpacing the supply of health care professionals.
Washington currently ranks 42nd in the nation when it comes to nurse-to-resident ratio. Washington, along with other Pacific Region states, is the fourth lowest in the nation in nurse growth. This means that over the next decade, RN demand will outpace supply in Washington state – key drivers being age-related retirement and escalating demand for health care. By 2030, Washington State will need an additional 12,000 nurses and 1,695 primary care physicians.
Additionally, the Washington Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board projects significant shortfalls in the number of physician assistants and advanced registered nurse practitioners.