Opinion: SB 5582 would widen the nurse pipeline in Washington state

Elizabeth Hovde of the Washington Policy Center believes ‘we need to grow more nurses in Washington state.’

Elizabeth Hovde of the Washington Policy Center believes ‘we need to grow more nurses in Washington state’

Elizabeth Hovde
Washington Policy Center

Senate Bill 5582, “Reducing barriers and expanding educational opportunities to increase the supply of nurses in Washington,” had a public hearing in the House Postsecondary Education and Workforce Committee Wednesday. It happened in the same committee meeting that had a public hearing for Senate Bill 5499, allowing the state to join the Nurse Licensure Compact. These two bills moving along in this legislative session offer hope that there will be caregivers available if we Washingtonians get stuck in hospital beds. 

Elizabeth Hovde
Elizabeth Hovde

There is a national nursing shortage. Our state is not immune, even with our high nursing wages and having been declared the best state in which to nurse by WalletHub. With limited nurse training opportunities in the state, however, we are simply replacing retiring nurses, not getting more nurses by bedsides. In long-term-care facilities and in hospitals, nurse staffing shortages are said to be burning out even more nurses and posing safety challenges. SB 5582’s sponsor, Sen. Jeff Holy, R-Cheney, said that the state’s Employment Security Department told him nursing is the most in-demand profession in the state.

There is no single solution to this workforce problem in our graying population, but attracting already trained nurses to our high-paying state, as joining the multistate Nurse Licensure Compact would accommodate, and graduating more nurses, as SB 5582 would help do, offer good policy. 

SB 5582 is now Engrossed Second Substitute Bill 5582. Maybe it needed the longer title to go with its extensive to-do list. The brief summary of the bill isn’t brief at all, listing nine ways the state would get more nurses in the pipeline in Washington state. 

Those nine ways include requiring the development of an online Licensed Practical Nurse program at two community or technical colleges, modifying the Student Nurse Preceptor Grant Program, creating a marketing plan to advertise available nurse training opportunities and jobs in Washington state, and creating pilot programs for high school students and working caregivers in need of different credentialing, among other things.

We need to grow more nurses in Washington state. SB 5582 offers ways to do that.

Elizabeth Hovde is a policy analyst and the director of the Centers for Health Care and Worker Rights at the Washington Policy Center. She is a Clark County resident.


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1 Comment

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    roxanne nelson

    Maybe we need to improve working conditions that will retain nurses. The problem is not a lack of nurses, which you keep parroting in every article you write. The problem is working conditions–such as staffing, safety, benefits, respect….hiring more nurses doesn’t solve that. There is no nationwide nursing shortage, simply a shortage of places where nurses want to work. Why don’t you look at some statistics for a change of pace.


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