MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Healthcare facilities struggle to attract nurses to rural areas, but one proposed bill could help bring more experienced nurse practitioners to those facing a healthcare professional shortage.
In 2016, Alabama lawmakers created a loan repayment program for nurses in school. The newly proposed bill would expand that program for certified nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives, and certified registered nurse anesthetists.
Currently, if students agree to work in rural areas, they could receive a maximum $15,000 annually to repay their loans. For each year they participate in the program, they need to work at least 18 months in a rural area.
However, under the new bill, the program would expand to nurses who are still paying off loans within five years of completing their education.
Senate Bill 37 passed the Senate Thursday and is expected to soon move to the House Health Committee.
“There’s a tremendous interest,” said Honor Ingels with the Alabama Board of Nursing who believes an expansion would help motivate experienced nurse practitioners to move to rural areas.
“That would be a tremendous help,” Ingels said. “There are towns that don’t have anything.”
The Alabama Board of Nursing allowed 37 people into the program this year. Ingels said that could mean 37 people in 37 different cities.