Home » Kentucky Board of Nursing celebrates, supports quality nursing care

Kentucky Board of Nursing celebrates, supports quality nursing care

by Audria Denker, president of the Kentucky Board of Nursing

As championed by the American Nurses Association, May is National Nurses Month. This year’s theme, “You Make a Difference,” was selected to encourage healthcare professionals, employers, community leaders, and the public to recognize and promote America’s nurses’ vast contributions and positive impact.

Nurses comprise the largest number of healthcare professionals in the U.S., providing care across the spectrum in every possible setting. As a group, they are consistently ranked at the top of the most-trusted professions. Celebrating, honoring and supporting nurses during May provides an added opportunity to promote the value of nursing, advocate for the profession, and take a closer look at how Kentucky fares compared with national trends.

The mission of the Kentucky Board of Nursing (KBN) is to protect the public by developing and enforcing state laws governing the safe practice of nurses, dialysis technicians, and licensed, certified professional midwives. Our function is regulatory, and our goals are to provide sound, a defensible regulatory practice that protects the public; efficiently deliver services across the commonwealth that meet the needs of consumers and regulated entities in a fiscally responsible manner; and support an organizational culture consistent with the Board’s mission, vision, and values.

It sometimes feels like we are bombarded in the media about the never-ending nursing shortage and how long this deficit is projected to last. One recently released national study examined the impact of COVID on burnout and stress among nurses. The summary was alarming, but a closer look reveals extremes in some states and larger urban centers that did not necessarily translate to Midwestern states like Kentucky.

One essential planning tool is accurate and reliable data on which to base decision-making for the Board and our legislators in Frankfort. This is why, for National Nurses Month, KBN is releasing the results of the first-ever nursing licensure workforce data survey conducted during the statewide license renewal period last fall, consisting of mandatory questions asked of Kentucky’s nearly 90,000 LPNs, RNs and APRNs.

The results comprise the most comprehensive survey of nurses in Kentucky ever undertaken! And responses will continue to be mandatory in the annual license renewal process. This will build on this strong foundation to establish solid trends rather than models based on data projected from optional surveys or limited sampling. This highly valuable and important feedback offers a true representation of the current status of nursing in Kentucky.

The numbers are encouraging regarding the percentage of younger nurses employed for 10 years or less. In addition, the number of nurses who have been in the field for more than 30 years involves fewer potential retirees than anticipated. Results indicate a generally stable workforce, but not surprisingly, with opportunities for improvement.

Specific data can be found on our website at www.kbn.ky.gov. One eye-opening graph depicts prevailing nursing wages, the only optional question in the survey. Leaders, lawmakers and employers need to understand what it takes to keep nurses in the workforce and to attract new ones to these positions. Paying competitive wages is at the top of the list.

How wages and other considerations influence the lack of nursing program applicants is not fully understood. As an example, for all prelicensure and advanced programs of nursing monitored by the KBN, empty seats reported in these programs for the spring 2023 semester totaled 5,257 – an unfortunate number that may be due to lack of interest exacerbated by unfilled faculty and staff positions and a lack of availability for a clinical practice experience.

As always, we have plenty of work to do, but implementing state-of-the-art new technologies is transforming the work of the Board, including a transition to a comprehensive, cloud-based license management platform in March. Developed by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, the Optimal Regulatory Board System aligns KBN with 40 other states and jurisdictions participating in the National Nurse Licensure Compact, supporting KBN’s mission of public protection.

National Nurses Month is a time to celebrate and recognize nurses for all they do for their patients and the profession. The Kentucky Board of Nursing is proud to be your partner in ensuring nursing excellence and planning for a healthy future for all Kentuckians.

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