Vanessa Lozada, Texas Health Resources director of emergency services, has seen men and women turn away from a career in the health care industry because of initial costs.
She was almost turned away early in her nursing career, when the high price of education threatened to force her to abandon her dream job. Luckily, her tuition was paid, saving her.
She hopes tuition reimbursement can help others looking for a start in medicine across North Texas. Recently, health care organizations across Tarrant County have picked up the pace in providing critical financial aid to prospective nurses.
With Texas facing a sharply increasing shortage of nurses, the need for recruitment is crucial, Lozada said.
The Texas Nurses Association has warned that the state’s nursing shortfall is pegged at about 30,000 — a number that threatens to double by 2032 if left unaddressed.
“That’s daunting in its own right,” Lozada said.
Tarrant County takes action
State and private entities within Tarrant County have spurred action. Nursing schools, hospitals and health care organizations, including Texas Health Resources and the University of Texas at Arlington, are battling the numbers.
“First thing we’re doing is we’re increasing admissions,” Dr. Meagan Rogers, associate professor of nursing at UT-Arlington, said. To that end, they are hosting open houses and offering scholarships to attract potential students.
Beyond increasing nursing school admissions, philanthropic provisions such as tuition reimbursement and education initiatives are being mobilized to remedy the situation, Lozada said.
Texas Health Resources provides up to $5,250 per year in tuition reimbursement, as does Baylor Scott & White. That money is paid up front, Lozada said, and is enough to cover a year of tuition at Lozada’s alma mater, Dallas College El Centro.
Each year, 11% of Texas Health Resources’ benefits-eligible employees take advantage of tuition reimbursement benefits.
That’s a number Lozada hopes to see increase.
“There’s just not enough young people wanting to become nurses,” she said. “We need to find ways to incentivize them, and then keep them staying.”
The increasing number of nursing students getting some or all of their tuition reimbursed could help make up the minds of those indecisive about entering nursing school, she said.
Texas Health Resources shells out more than $5 million every year on tuition assistance, Lozada said.
The investment demonstrates a determination to remedy the imminent crisis and a pledge to diminish the nursing deficit by encouraging more employees to join the workforce, she said.
Addressing the pharmacy technician shortage
Throughout Tarrant County, similar efforts are being made to confront a shortage of pharmacy technicians — assistants to pharmacists who take on a multitude of roles from counting pills and making intravenous solutions to managing inventory and executing orders from vendors.
The technicians are vital to enhancing pharmacists’ productivity, which is crucial to delivering timely care to patients, according to the Texas Pharmacy Association.
Due to the shortage, new programs directed at demand for pharmacy techs and administered by Texas Health Resources have spread throughout the county.
By creating training opportunities, crafting curriculum specifically for this sector and covering reimbursement, these programs pave the way for prospective technicians, providing them with the skills and experience to effortlessly glide into the many vacancies, according to Texas Health Resources.
Building a stronger health care foundation
The efforts by Texas Health Resources and colleges within Tarrant County mark a shift in policy, away from reacting to the immediate inconveniences dealt by understaffing toward preempting and fortifying the state’s overall health care foundation, Rogers said.
These ventures reflect an understanding that the solution to this looming crisis lies not merely in the impromptu hiring sprees, but in the long-term cultivation of the workforce, she said.
The importance of these efforts and their potential effects should not be understated, said Lozada.
“We need to invest in the dreams of these aspiring health care professionals,” Lozada said. “Not only for their sake, but for the health and well-being of our communities.”
Nurses form the backbone of any health care facility with their roles in patient care, wellness promotion and disease prevention. With every nurse and assistant educated and guided, there is a knock-on effect on the health care ecosystem at large, she said.
The Texas health care community is fighting back, confident that it can rein in a crisis that threatens to leave its hospitals and clinics critically short-staffed.
“Though the numbers paint a grim landscape, these proactive measures shine a hopeful light,” Lozada said.
Matthew Sgroi is a reporting fellow for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at email@example.com. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.
Disclosure: Texas Health Resources is a financial supporter of the Fort Worth Report. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.