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Gov. Gregoire Proposes Innovative Partnerships to Train More Registered Nurses

For Immediate Release: January 17, 2008

SEATTLE – Washington can address a severe shortage of registered nurses by working with hospitals, community colleges and unions to train current health care workers for those jobs, Gov. Chris Gregoire said today.

The governor met with representatives of the Washington State Hospital Association, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and the Swedish Medical Center to outline her supplemental budget proposal to invest $3 million to provide training for existing health care workers who are interested in advancing their careers but can’t take time off the job to do it.

“The need is clear, and the solution is too,” Gregoire said. “If we can help our experienced health care workers advance their careers and become registered nurses, they win and the state wins.”

Gregoire noted that a pilot project with Shoreline Community College worked well, and should be expanded statewide through the State Board of Community and Technical Colleges.

Diane Sosne, president of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW, said helping existing employees such as nurse assistants and surgical technicians learn to become registered nurses benefits both hospitals and their employees. That’s because existing employees already know hospital systems and procedures, enjoy the work, and are less likely to leave than new registered nurses entering the workforce.

“Giving them the opportunity to increase their earning power and do important, needed work is the most significant opportunity the governor could give them,” she said. “It’s huge.”

Leo Greenawalt, president of the Washington State Hospital Association, said many talented people working in hospitals would like to advance their careers but need education and training to do so.

“The governor has a great plan for helping hospital workers get the training they need to achieve their dreams,” Greenawalt said. “We are delighted to support her proposal, and hope the Legislature will endorse it."

"This is a great example how creative collaboration in public/private partnership can create sustainable opportunities for our community, added Dr. Rod Hochman, president of Swedish Hospital. “We applaud the governor's leadership in supporting these efforts."

Gregoire said this new program is part of her emphasis on patient safety this session, which also includes increasing licensing and oversight of providers, expanding investigations of complaints, and using technology to reduce medication errors.

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