Nursing Workforce Programs in Title VIII of the Public Health Service Act

Responding to concerns about existing or impending shortages of nurses, Congress passed the Nurse Training Act of 1964 (P.L. 88-581). It established in Title VIII of the Public Health Service Act (PHSA) the first comprehensive federal support for programs to develop the nursing workforce. Through subsequent authorizations, these programs have been amended to increase opportunities in nurse education and training for individuals and institutions. Currently, Title VIII authorizes grants to institutions, and scholarships and loans to individuals, for basic and advanced levels of nursing education and training. Programs and authorities in Title VIII are administered by the Bureau of Health Professions (BHPr) in the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Congress passed the Health Professions Education Partnerships Act of 1998 ( P.L. 105-392 ) and the Nurse Reinvestment Act of 2002 ( P.L. 107-205 ). Under Title VIII, programs for Basic Nurse Education and Practice, Advanced Education Nursing, Nurse Education Practice and Retention and Nursing Workforce Diversity have received continuous support since 1998. The 2002 law reauthorized some of these programs and created new ones, including the programs for Nurse Faculty Loans and Comprehensive Geriatric Education. Still, a number of programs in Title VIII are due for reauthorization. In 2002, the HHS reported on the supply of, demand for, and shortage of registered nurses in the United States and projected that shortages are likely to increase through 2020. In 2000, 2002, and 2003, the National Advisory Committee on Nursing Education and Practice (NACNEP), a federal advisory committee, made recommendations to the Secretary and Congress. According to NACNEP, the first priority in alleviating the anticipated nursing shortage should be to ensure that an adequate number of qualified faculty are available to teach prospective nurses. This report examines the legislative, programmatic, and funding aspects of Title VIII. It describes the registered nurse workforce, and requirements for education and licensing in the nurse workforce, as these relate to Title VIII. In the 108th Congress, legislation to reauthorize or amend Title VIII was introduced but did not become law. The 109th Congress may see similar proposals introduced to reauthorize or support Title VIII. A list of relevant legislation is provided. This report will be updated as events warrant.