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State funding aims to address nursing shortage in SC

$1 million of the state budget is earmarked to help technical colleges expand their nursing programs.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — In a time where healthcare is paramount, South Carolina is suffering from a shortage of nurses. According to the University of South Carolina, there are thousands of nursing vacancies. 

"There’s definitely a nursing shortage in our state," Dr. Sheryl Mitchell, Assistant Dean with the College of Nursing at USC, told News 19.

She said a report estimates that South Carolina will have the fourth worst nursing shortage in the nation by 2030. "If you look at some of the job postings you can see well over a thousand job listings," Mitchell said. "It’s actually closer to 8,000, depending on which job site you’re looking at.”

Mitchell explained that hospitals needed more nurses before the pandemic, but COVID-19 has made the shortage much worse.

"We have individuals retiring. We also have, because of 2020, some burnout. So, some nurses have left the workforce," Mitchell answered when asked why there's a shortage.

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She added that there may not be enough faculty to teach nursing students. "It's multifactorial, it's just not one thing that's causing the nursing shortage."

The shortage means fewer opportunities for nursing students to get hands-on experience, Mitchell said, which is worsening the problem. 

Lawmakers, like Representative Bill Herbkersman, hope to address the issue with state funding. 

The Republican from Beaufort earmarked $1 million in the state budget to help technical colleges expand their nursing programs.

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"DHEC is letting the technical college know what type of nurses they have an absolute acute need for and then the technical college is gearing that nursing program toward that to fulfill the needed slots," Herbkersman explained about the program.

The funding will first go to the Technical College of the Lowcountry, with hopes to expand programs at all tech schools in the state.

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"The technical colleges are out in the rural areas, so it gives the rural areas the opportunity to fulfill nursing slots with their local folks and gives those folks an opportunity to get into a good job," said Herbkersman.

Dr. Mitchell said USC’s nursing program applications are up 10% this year. They hope to lessen the shortage by offering more scholarships and working with local hospitals.

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