Nursing Workforce Development programs, perhaps more familiarly known as Title VIII (Public Health Service Act [142 U.S.C. 296 et seq.]), are the cornerstone of sustaining a robust nursing workforce, qualified to meet our nation’s increasing health care needs. 

History of Title VIII Nursing Workforce Development programs

With the passage of the Nurse Training Act of 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson and the U.S. Congress recognized the vital role nurses play in the health care team and the need to attract qualified people to the nursing profession. At that time, the country was experiencing a shortage of nurses and was unable to meet the health needs of a rapidly growing population. Nearly 20 percent of nursing positions in hospitals were unfilled, forcing some hospitals to close wards and entire sections. The Nurse Training Act recognized the value of nursing education programs and made a significant investment in the future of the nursing pipeline. President Johnson signed this historic legislation into law on September 4, 1964.  

The Nursing Workforce Development programs remain as vital to the nation’s health as they were when created fifty years ago. Title VIII programs bolster nursing education and fund institutions educating nurses to practice in rural and medically underserved communities. Additionally, Title VIII programs seek to increase retention of the nursing workforce through innovative loan forgiveness programs for clinical nurses and faculty providing clinical nursing education.

Providing Care in Underserved Areas

Title VIII funding expands educational funding for nursing education to prepare registered nurses (RNs) to  provide care for America’s most vulnerable populations. These programs are administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), the federal agency charged with improving access to health care by strengthening the health care workforce, building healthy communities and achieving health equity. HRSA awards funding to educational programs that prepare nurses to practice in rural and medically underserved communities.

Among the programs seeking to improve access in rural and underserved areas are the Nursing Education Loan Repayment and Nursing Scholarship Programs. These programs provide loan forgiveness and scholarship aid in exchange for service in a critical shortage facility, link nurses to communities struggling to retain health care providers.

Demand for Faculty

Title VIII also recognizes the importance of faculty when seeking ways to tackle our nation’s nursing shortage. Nursing schools report they are forced to turn away qualified applicants because they lack the necessary faculty to educating the capacity of nurses needed to meet demand. Title VIII provides a direct solution to this crisis. Investing in nursing workforce development programs are critical to strengthening the number of highly-educated nurses to care for all Americans.