Texas health care providers finding innovative ways to secure RNs


Boram Kim


Pandemic related stressors led to an unprecedented number of health care professionals leaving the industry over the past 2 years and hospitals, nursing facilities, and other health care providers across Texas have been developing innovative ways to attract and retain registered nurses.


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Texas requires hospitals to form staffing committees to develop plans and policies to direct the implementation of optimal staffing practices. Through late last year, health sector employment was calculated to be down 5.8% nationwide with nursing and community care facilities for the elderly down 13.4% and 14.6%, respectively.


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Texas, which already had one of the worst nurse-to-patient ratios in the country prior to the pandemic, continues to struggle with the fourth-lowest nurse-to-population ratio at only 9.25 nurses per 1,000 residents and the second largest RN shortage in the country.

Texas Nurses Association CEO Cindy Zolnierek, PhD, spoke to the mental, physical and emotional toll that the pandemic took on nurses during the State of Reform Health Policy Conference in Austin earlier this year. She said providers must be focused on creating “positive nursing practices” that promote workplace safety and address their immediate concerns.


“[Nurses] need breaks, they need to have days off, they need to have reasonable workloads, and they need to be protected from workplace violence. That will help prevent the mental health challenges that many nurses are experiencing,” said Zolnierek.

“We are very actively working with legislators and talking. The governor set aside funds specifically to address the nursing shortage. And we are working with the governor’s office and [on] how those funds can be utilized to increase the availability of clinical spaces and find creative ways to open up that bottleneck which helps schools produce more nurses.”


To address those needs, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) provided $128 million in direct federal funding through ARPA last year to pay for critical staffing throughout the state’s nursing facilities ($90 million) and rural hospitals ($38 million).

Under the CARES Student Loan Assistance Program, eligible employees can receive up to $5,250 annually in student loan repayment assistance for a health care degree. 

University Medical Center (UMC) of El Paso announced it will pay its employees up to $5,000 per year to complete a degree in nursing or other licensed medical skill.

The UMC will offer its employees the flexibility of maintaining full-time employment status and compensation while pursuing their education and working part time.

Baylor University recently launched its Distance Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) (also called Online Accelerated BSN) degree program that assists non-nursing bachelor’s degree holders in Texas become qualified nurses in as little as a year.

Previously, a two-year Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) was the fastest route to RN licensure. The 1-year accelerated work-study program at the Louise Herrington School of Nursing in Dallas combines hands-on clinical experience through placement at university medical facilities with online course work.

Baylor Scott & White Health has given a pay raise to more than 12,000 front line nurses across its health system, investing $165 million—the largest amount in the organization’s history.

Last year, it launched the Baylor Scott & White Nursing Institute as a direct pipeline of RNs into its network of more than 52 hospitals and 7,500 active providers.