Dear Editor: Many people don't realize it, but Wisconsin has a nursing shortage that without action will quickly get worse. With the wave of baby boomers advancing in age and being at risk for declining health, our current system faces additional strain it may not be able to handle.
One-third of the population of the north woods will be over 65 by 2030. Additionally, a recent survey showed one-fourth of our current nursing population plans to retire in the next four years. Without foresight and intervention, we’re facing a disaster.
What won’t help this crisis is the proposed GOP tax bill. Currently, what is exacerbating our nursing shortage is not a lack of interested students, but a lack of nurses with advanced degrees to teach them. Incentive is already low, as getting the doctoral degree to qualify to teach takes time and money, but doesn’t yield much of a bump in pay. One option nurses take to accomplish this is to become a teaching assistant while completing an advanced degree, which provides a tuition waiver and stipend. The proposed GOP tax bill includes a punishing section where students must count waived tuition as earned income and pay taxes on it. Suddenly, nurses desiring to become nursing instructors, creating for us the next generation of nurses, may no longer be able to afford advanced degree education.
With the high need for nursing instructors and the ever increasing statewide nursing shortage, we put our seniors, our neighbors, and ourselves at risk. Let’s start a discussion on how we can get more nursing instructors, not punish nurses trying to help our state stave off disaster.
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