NEW BRITAIN, Conn. (AP) – Connecticut’s nursing shortage could reach crisis proportions if more education programs and funds are not made available in the next few years, according to health care advocates.

Several nurses, instructors and others in the field say they are awaiting word on whether a proposed $185,000 federal grant will be approved for the Connecticut State University System’s nursing programs.

That could spur federal and state leaders and the private sector to work together to help reverse the nursing shortage and prevent it from getting worse, said U.S. Rep. Christopher Murphy, D-Conn.

Murphy gathered Friday with nursing professionals from throughout the state to draw attention to the nursing shortage.

They attribute it, in part, to a shortage of instructors and the limited number of spots available in existing nursing programs statewide for people who want to enroll.

“They are unable to secure a seat in a program in the state of Connecticut,” said Mary Jane Williams, professor and chairwoman of the University of Hartford’s nursing department.

About 1,100 qualified nursing applicants were turned away last year from programs across the state because there weren’t enough seats, Williams said. Nationally, that figure was 40,000.

Murphy said federal reports estimate that over the next eight years, health care institutions across the country will need 1 million new nurses.

He said he believes the U.S. House of Representatives will approve the proposed grant for the state’s university system, which would use it to add seats in nursing programs at Central, Western, Southern and Eastern Connecticut state universities.

It also would help fund programs for more graduate training opportunities, scholarships and equipment, authorities said.

Recent reports say Connecticut continues to struggle with a shortage of registered nurses, despite increases in recent years in the number of nursing graduates at colleges in the state.

A 2007 report by the state Department of Higher Education said 1,076 registered nursing degrees were issued by Connecticut colleges in 2006.

That figure was 25 percent higher than in 2005, but fell short of the number of annual registered nurse job openings predicted by the state Labor Department.

Information from: The Bristol Press,

AP-ES-08-16-08 1430EDT

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