Lawmakers in North Dakota are currently considering proposals that would expand the educational loan repayment programs due to a severe health professionals’ shortage. The House Human Services committee reviewed one of the most important bills related to this for the first time on February 2nd.
The bill would add to the incentives already available to certain medical students, as well as increase the number of health professions eligible for loan repayment incentives. It would also expand on the different types of health professions on the loan repayment grants eligibility list, including, but not limited to respiratory therapist, surgical technician and registered nurse.
North Dakota is in dire need of this bill due to the growing shortage of health care professionals. And with grim predictions for the next 10 years as it relates to this shortage, the bill couldn’t be timelier.
Health professionals already eligible for the loan repayment incentives include nutritionists, pharmacists, occupational therapists, practical nurses, registered dieticians and paramedics. Lawmakers argue that the healthcare community also needs other types of professionals included who are currently not eligible, but who will be in high demand in a few years. Their ratonalization stems from recent population growth estimates.
The President of the North Dakota Hospital Association, Jerry Jurena, assessed the situation as “critical”, explaining that they are already in need of more professionals than they currently have, in order to cover demands.
Mary Amundson, an Assistant Professor at the University of North Dakota, agreed on the critical nature of the problem and pointed out that even with the help of incentive programs, demographic trends are still a concerning factor that makes the problem increasingly difficult to handle.