$2.1 million award will help address Alaska’s nursing shortage

by Vicki Nechodomu  |   

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(All photos by James Evans, Chief of Photography and Videography, University of Alaska Anchorage)

Alaska has a shortage of nurses. Even though UAA has graduated thousands of registered nurses and hundreds of advanced practice nurses over 50 years, the state continues to grapple with vacancies. In 2017, a study by the National Center for Health Workforce Analysis projected Alaska would lead the nation in nursing vacancies by 2030 with 22.7% unfilled positions. This past fall, the state resorted to contracting nearly 300 out-of-state registered nurses to alleviate a strain on hospitals driven by the pandemic.

To help deal with a dearth of nurses, Gov. Mike Dunleavy in December announced the state will award  $2.1 million from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Funds to the University of Alaska Anchorage College of Health to support nursing faculty recruitment and retention. This initiative aims to build the School of Nursing’s capacity to produce more nurses and meet the increasing health care workforce demand across the state.

“Alaska’s health care system depends on qualified, highly trained nurses providing skilled and compassionate care each and every day,” said Gov. Dunleavy in a press release. “Graduates from the UAA nursing program are highly regarded medical professionals, the more of them we can train here in Alaska, the stronger our health care system will be.”

Alaska, like the rest of the nation, is experiencing a shortage of nursing faculty, impacting nursing program delivery and capacity. UAA typically has two to three times as many qualified nursing program applicants as the number of seats available. The grant addresses this challenge by providing additional resources for recruitment and retention of nursing faculty.

"Building a sufficient and stable faculty is essential in being able to develop innovative instructional strategies, expand clinical learning opportunities and provide consistent quality education for nurses," said Kendra Sticka, UAA's associate dean of clinical health sciences.

The funding will provide incentives such as relocation allowances and signing bonuses for 23 new nursing faculty members or current faculty relocating to areas of high need. Tuition assistance will support the development of “home grown” faculty, expanding the pool of faculty candidates. Additionally, loan forgiveness will be made available to new and current faculty members.

"Thank you to Gov. Dunleavy for recognizing the critically important role that UAA plays in educating health and behavioral health professionals for Alaska," said UAA Chancellor Sean Parnell. "This investment in recruitment and retention packages will provide a mechanism to attract and retain qualified faculty in these essential fields in Alaska now and for the future."

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