FRANKFORT — A Kentucky Senate committee advanced a bill Wednesday aimed at overcoming the state’s chronic nursing shortage that worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The measure would lift enrollment limits in nursing programs and accelerate licensing for out-of-state nurses to work in Kentucky. The bill cleared the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, moving on to the full Senate. Senate President Robert Stivers is sponsoring the bill with Sen. Robby Mills.

In December, Gov. Andy Beshear declared the state’s nursing shortage to be an emergency. The governor pointed to projections that Kentucky will need more than 16,000 additional nurses by 2024, to help fill gaps caused by retirements and people leaving the profession.

Under the bill, enrollment limits would be lifted for nursing programs with at least an 80% average rate of students who passed the licensure exam in the previous three years.

“Instead of having some type of artificial or arbitrary number that this institution or that institution should have this many people to be admitted, we felt we needed to get rid of everything and just let the market take its course,” Stivers told the committee.

The bill would accelerate the process for nurses from other states or countries to get licensed in Kentucky “without compromising the standard of care,” Mills said.

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