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Task force looks for ways to address the nursing crisis in Kansas and beyond

The pandemic worsened the nursing shortage in Kansas and nationwide. KU’s Sally Maliski is part of a task force seeking to increase the number of nurses in Kansas.

Portrait of Sally Maliski
KU School of Nursing Dean Sally Maliski is excited about a statewide task force seeking to address the nursing shortage.

Sally L. Maliski, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, dean of the University of Kansas School of Nursing, has been appointed to a task force to find ways to combat the nursing shortage in Kansas. What the task force learns could be used to address the problem across the country as the national shortage worsens.

“While the shortage of nurses was a serious problem prior to COVID-19, the pandemic has made it worse,” Maliski said, “both in terms of nurses leaving and the image of the burned-out nurse, which discourages young people from wanting to go into nursing.”

A reduction in practicing nurses could not have come at a worse time. According to the American Nurses Association in 2022, there are more jobs for nurses available than for any other profession in the country. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the country will need an additional 275,000 nurses by 2030.

Kansas is like much of the rest of the nation, Maliski said, with shortages of both nurses and nurse educators.

“It’s very difficult to compete with the private sector to hire nursing faculty, and without faculty there is no one to teach students.”

About the task force

Maliski was appointed to the task force by the Kansas State Board of Regents. The task force has been charged with developing recommendations to address barriers to increasing the inadequate number of nursing graduates and nursing faculty in Kansas. Other members of the task force are:

  • Mary Carol Pomatto, Ed.D., APRN, dean of the College of Arts at Sciences at Pittsburg State University.
  • Carol Moreland, MSN, RN, executive administrator of the Kansas State Board of Nursing.
  • Jaron Caffrey, project manager of workforce strategies, Kansas Hospital Association.
  • Kathleen Kottas, MSN, DNP, APRN, dean of workforce training and community education at Barton County Community College.
  • Joyce Grayson, director of Rural Health Education and Services at KU Medical Center.

While the nursing shortage is multifaceted and complex, Maliski is excited to be part of a team tasked with seeking answers. The solution may begin in high school. Maliski would like to see outreach by schools of nursing to introduce high school students to all the various career options available with a nursing degree.

“While many people are familiar with only bedside nursing, there are all kinds of different careers possible,” she said. “A nurse might manage a surgery facility, conduct research or lead an interdisciplinary team of health care providers.”

What task force members could address

Maliski is hoping the task force will address the numerous known barriers, which include:

  • Nursing educator shortages.
  • Constraints on clinical sites.
  • Limits on classroom capacity in traditional brick-and-mortar programs.

“I believe we need to address and ameliorate these barriers in order to increase our capacity to educate more nurses,” she said.

Once nurses have graduated and joined the workforce, Maliski said institutions “need to provide a healthy work environment where nurses are respected for their expertise and have a voice in decision making.”

While the task force has just begun its efforts, Maliski believes it’s a large step in the right direction.

“I believe we will benefit from a statewide, coordinated and collaborative effort to begin to address these issues, many of which will not produce immediate effects, but will pay off in the long run,” she said.

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