The graying of America and the COVID-19 pandemic have collided to create an unprecedented nursing shortage. Five hundred thousand nurses plan to leave the bedside by the end of 2022 – creating a shortage of 1.1 million nurses – just as the country becomes more populated with older people who may require more medical services. We must rebuild the nursing workforce, but to rebuild the workforce, we must understand it.

There are federally-supported institutions to research and advise on policies related to the national healthcare workforce, including the National Advisory Council on Nurse Education and Practice, National Center for Health Workforce Analysis, and Health Workforce Research Centers. However, these entities inform health workforce planning and policy at a national level. Since the workforce needs of communities differ significantly across the country, policies developed based on national data may not always make sense for individual regions, states or local jurisdictions.

Nursing workforce centers fill this gap. The 40 existing nursing workforce centers are hubs to advance nursing education, practice, leadership and workforce development at the state and local levels using data-driven approaches. Specifically, nursing workforce center services include conducting localized research, publishing reports related to supply, demand, and educational capacity of the nursing workforce, and then developing and implementing strategies to improve the nursing workforce in their states. However, most nursing workforce centers report insufficient funding and lack of technical capabilities as major barriers to fully supporting their state’s nursing workforce needs.

The National Nursing Workforce Center Act would establish a grant program to support public-private partnerships of entities seeking to stabilize, support, analyze, develop, and invest in growing the nursing workforce. Through this program, existing nursing workforce centers will be able to expand their data collection and solution-based problem solving for their individual states. States without nursing workforce centers will be able to establish one to respond to both nursing workforce and community needs.