Oklahoma U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe is requesting $866,000 in federal funding to help address a long-running nursing shortage in northeastern Oklahoma.
The earmark is for Tulsa Community College’s nursing program to purchase new equipment including patient simulators, renovate lab space and make other adjustments to accommodate 70 more students a year within four years, a 20% increase.
Oklahoma has four fewer nurses per capita than the national average, and TCC Nursing Program Director Lisa Gerow said the nurses the state does have are getting older.
"The Oklahoma Board of Nursing says that the average age for our nurses in our community is 46 years old. That's the average age. So, we've got a lot of nurses that are getting toward retirement age. And so, we need to beef that up and fill those gaps," Gerow said.
Oklahoma's nursing shortage goes back roughly two decades. Inhofe said Friday any time away from Washington the past two weeks he’s spent in the hospital with his wife, Kay, who was injured in a recent fall.
"I'm particularly sensitive now to what nurses are doing and the value of nurses and how much I really love them because I'm seeing on a first-hand basis what they're doing for my wife," Inhofe said.
TCC also wants to speed up its program for paramedics and licensed practical nurses who want to become registered nurses, taking it from 18 months to 12.
TCC said its program has produced around 5,000 nurses in its 50-year history.