AUSTIN (KXAN) — Nursing groups across Texas are calling the 87th legislative session a staggering disappointment. They said budget cuts and the failure of eight bills this session will make it harder for nurses to provide care.

One Central Texas nurse who agreed to speak to KXAN if she wasn’t identified said she is concerned about state lawmakers not passing several bills that address nursing shortages and protecting nurses from workplace violence.

“I feel like if it didn’t happen during this [legislative] session, it’s really not going to happen,” the nurse said. “We should have had such a ground swelling of support for nurses and frontline workers because once again, the Texas legislature failed to protect nurses.”

The Texas Center for Nursing Workforce Studies projected a deficit of 57,000 RNs by 2032. Retirement or burnout from the pandemic are just a few factors.

“We do have a staffing crisis. We have new graduates coming in with nobody to train them,” the nurse explained. “In some cases, the charge nurse, who’s also in charge of 34 beds on a medical surgical unit, has to take her own patients or his own patients as well. And that’s not a safe situation.”

Lawmakers cut the $20 million budget for the Nursing Shortage Reduction Program, which allocates money to schools of nursing to increase enrollment and capacity, by five percent.

“It’s extremely discouraging, disappointing and quite baffling in some ways to me, that this has happened in light of what we have been going through,” Texas Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, explained. “If you go go around town or anywhere in our state, you’re going to see the big signs hung up that say, ‘Heroes work here.’ We recognize the nurses as heroes, but we don’t follow through with the support they need to do their job.”

Rep. Howard is a former nurse, and she sponsored several bills that focused on improving working conditions among nurses.

According to the Texas Nurses Association (TNA), several proposed bills and measures in the 87th legislature would have eased the state’s health care workforce shortage, improved working conditions for nurses and resulted in more health care access for all Texans. The following bills and measures did not pass:

  • HB 2029 (Klick), SB 915 (Hancock) — Would have removed anti-competitive regulations for APRNs to expand access to care for Texans.
  • HB 1524 (Lucio) — Would have allowed APRNs to prescribe Schedule II medications under delegated authority from a physician.
  • HB 326 (Howard) — Would have required facilities to adopt workplace violence prevention plans, encouraged reporting of incidents of workplace violence, and ensured that providers receive the care they need after an incident.
  • HB 396 (Moody), SB 433/499 (Zaffirini and Blanco) – Would have created a presumption that nurses who contracted COVID-19 did so in the scope of their employment.
  • HB 2409 (Dean) – Would have codified the COVID-19 measure waiving CE requirements and reactivation fees for nurses who came out of retirement/reactivated their license during a disaster. 
  • HB 982 (Howard and Darby) — Would have created an expedited licensure process for APRNs who are licensed out of state.
  • SB 146 (Powell), HB 2062 (Klick) — Would have created a loan repayment program for nurses who work in long-term care.
  • HB 3819 (Klick and Powell) – Would have allowed school nurses to administer prescription asthma medicine to a student in emergency situations

The Texas Nurses Association said the state faces the second worst nursing shortage in the country and ranks 51st nationally in health care access and affordability. That group along with 15 other nursing groups said their members across Texas were exceedingly hopeful that lawmakers would prioritize health care and pass policies and reforms to support patients, support nurses and improve working conditions.

The nursing groups are now setting up strategies for the next legislative session and said they will continue to advocate for nurses and patients throughout any special sessions and during the interim.