U.S. Department of Labor Announces $80M Funding to Diversify Nursing Workforce

Gayle Morris, MSN
Updated November 4, 2022
    The Department of Labor announced $80M in funding to help improve the nursing shortage and support equity in healthcare. Find out how they plan to spend the money.
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    • The Department of Labor announced an $80 million fund to support equity and diversification in nursing education.
    • Organizations are expected to use the grant money to expand the number of nurse educators and instructors. Or they can use the money to support training and education for middle- to high-skilled nursing jobs.
    • This strategy hopes to raise the number of nurses who enter the profession and to slow the nursing shortage.

    In October 2022, the Department of Labor (DOL) announced an $80 million fund to award up to 25 grants that support equity and diversification in nursing education. This support comes at a time when schools are reporting a shortage of faculty, clinical sites, preceptors, and budget constraints.

    Nurses are a critical part of the healthcare team and shortages can lead to medication errors, poor patient satisfaction, lack of access to care, and higher morbidity and mortality rates. Discover the impact these grants may have on the nursing profession.

    DOL Pledges Grants to Train Instructors, Enhance Nursing Workforce

    From 2021 to 2031, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that more than 200,000 nurses will be needed. The rate of employment opportunities will also grow at 6%. In an effort to address the need for skilled nurses, the DOL announced they would make $80 million in grant money available to support nursing programs.

    The hope is the money will expand the number of nurses entering the profession. The grants, which will be funneled through the Nursing Expansion Grant Program, will be awarded to programs that strive to advance equity and create pathways to increase diversity in the workforce.

    The DOL acknowledges the pandemic has placed an unprecedented demand on the nursing workforce. According to one Hospital IQ survey, 90% of those responding were considering leaving the nursing profession in the next 12 months. However, while the pandemic has been challenging, 72% said they were experiencing symptoms of burnout long before the pandemic started.

    The key drivers for burnout have been manual tasks and administrative burdens, such as updating paperwork or orchestrating patient discharges. These challenges, combined with impending retirement and an aging workforce, have led to a growing shortage of nurses.

    The Secretary of Labor, Marty Walsh, commented in the press release that nurses have worked around the clock to care for patients and currently are working with the challenges of a nursing shortage. It is hoped the funding will help bring more individuals into the industry.

    This is part of the H-1B Skills Training Grant program designed for healthcare groups to work collaboratively to focus on “attracting, training, hiring, and retaining skilled workers, especially from underserved communities.” Attracting historically marginalized and underrepresented populations will increase employment equity and improve diversity.

    The current grant money will also emphasize research and evidence-based practices to address barriers to becoming a nurse. The grants represent partnerships between public and private organizations. Programs applying for grant money must propose models that will build partnerships with community organizations and teaching institutions.

    What the Money Will Support

    The money is allocated to training nurses to align with the administration’s Good Jobs Initiative, which is administered by the DOL. The idea is to improve job quality and create better access to jobs free from discrimination and harassment, including sharing information on:

    • Worker’s right to minimum wage
    • Safe workplaces
    • How to bargain collectively with employers

    The initiative has hosted a summit with 350 cross-sector stakeholders, established Good Jobs Principles, and entered into agreements with the Departments of Transportation, Commerce, and Energy to fund equitable workforce development pathways.

    Documentation from the DOL indicates that nonprofit healthcare organizations are eligible as lead applicants to use the funds for support services for individuals who might need help with:

    • Childcare
    • Dependent care
    • Transportation to complete their education

    What Does This Mean for Nurses

    The $80M in funding should increase the number of nurses entering the profession by allowing nursing programs to accept more qualified applicants each year. This in turn should slow the nursing shortage and reduce the stress on staff and institutions related to patient care.

    The program has two tracks. The first hopes to increase the number of educators and instructors. The second hopes to support postsecondary education for nurses, including registered nurses, licensed practical/vocational nurses, home health aides, certified nursing assistants, and personal care aides.

    The education and training support for new healthcare professionals and paraprofessionals is a crucial step toward slowing the loss of nurses. When nursing programs are unable to accept qualified applicants, it’s an indication that there are candidates who want to become nurses. However, the shortage is multifactorial and will require a more complex answer than adding more nurses to the field.

    Increasing the number of staff can help reduce the burden on seasoned nurses, which may encourage more to stay in their jobs until they reach retirement age. Hospitals and healthcare institutions must also simultaneously address the needs of the current staff, including supporting nurses’ well-being and reducing stress on working nurses, as they await an influx of new nurses.

    How to Apply for These Grants

    The deadline to apply for grant funding is January 6, 2023. Applicants can use the online Grants.gov portal to apply. Organizations that are eligible include:

    • Nonprofits having a 501(c)(3) status with the IRS, other than institutions of higher education
    • Native American tribal governments (federally recognized)
    • Nonprofits that do not have a 501(c)(3) status with the IRS, other than institutions of higher education
    • Public and state-controlled institutions of higher education
    • Other organizations as specified under “Additional Information on Eligibility”

    Applicants must meet the proposed grant initiative to increase the number of instructors and educators or to train direct care workers to step into middle- to high-skilled nursing occupations. Applicants may receive from $1 million to $6 million to fund their proposed program. The program expects to award 25 grants.