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Drake State sees increase in nurse applicants as country faces a nurse shortage

Administrators say they’ve seen a 20%-30% increase in nurse applicants compared to 2019.

HUNTSVILLE, Ala — Low pay for nurses is playing a big role in the nursing shortage facing Alabama.

The difference in pay for LPN's here in Alabama compared to surrounding states ranges from two to six thousand dollars less per year.

"There is a solution, that has been staring at us in the face. If you pay nurses, what they feel they're worth, okay. And if you see there is a pay disparity in the health care industry," said Drake State’s Health & Sciences Division Chair, Alice Raymond.

The only state bordering us that pays a few hundred dollars less is Mississippi. The nationwide average is $46,000 per year.

Meanwhile, Drake State Community & Technical College administrators say they’ve seen an increase in nurse applicants compared to 2019, by 20-30%.

“We have seen a significant rise in the applicants. We've seen not only an increase in the number of applicants but also an increase in the number of qualified applicants,” said Raymond.

A rise in enrollment is normally good for a college, but leaders at Drake State said they’ve actually had to turn applicants away because of the lack of staff to support the influx of applicants.

“Most of the faculty population are also aging, so you have less and less people to teach as well,” said Raymond.

Raymond said the shortage started before the pandemic. Part of the shortage was due to long-term care. “Mostly because of the baby boomers aging, and the older healthy adults still needed care.”

However, as the health care industry changes, Raymond said the school is doing its part to meet the need.

“But we've also branched out in response to industry. We have a certified nursing assistant program that we train people to work in long-term care facilities. We also launched a medication assistant program where a person and experienced CNA, which is a certified nursing assistant can come back and get trained to administer a routine medication,” said Raymond.

“A big part of our rapid recovery plan because we really aim to put people back into the workforce in the jobs where they are needed the most. And that's what rapid recovery plan is about,” she added.