(a) The Legislature finds the following:
(1) Health care services are becoming complex and it is increasingly difficult for patients to access integrated services;
(2) Quality of patient care is jeopardized because of insufficient nursing staff;
(3) To ensure the adequate protection of patients in acute care settings, it is essential that qualified registered nurses and other licensed nurses be accessible and available to meet the needs of patients;
(4) In West Virginia, and across the country, concerns about an increasing nursing shortage continue to grow;
(5) A number of factors contribute to the growing shortages in qualified nursing personnel;
(6) The way care is delivered has changed dramatically over the last decade with more people being treated in outpatient settings, shorter and more intense lengths of stay in acute and long-term care settings, and the development of alternatives to nursing home care;
(7) These changes have led to a number of employment options
becoming available to nurses that did not exist previously, making it difficult for employers of nurses to recruit and retain qualified nursing personnel;
(8) Severe cutbacks in the federal Medicare program, state budgetary pressures related to the Medicaid program and continued pressure from insurers to reduce their costs and to retrospectively deny payment for services rendered, have: (A) Made it extremely difficult for many providers to keep up with other employers in salaries and benefits and to recruit and retain qualified nursing personnel; and (B) increased stresses in the work environment;
(9) The increasing reliance on temporary employment agencies to meet nursing personnel needs further complicates the situation as continuity of care is disrupted, quality of patient care is jeopardized, and costs pressures are further increased; and
(10) Because of the multifaceted nature of these problems, it is critical that all of the interested and affected parties cooperate and collaborate in the development of solutions.
(b) A nursing shortage study commission shall be created by the West Virginia board of examiners for registered professional nurses. The board shall appoint eleven members to the commission. The board shall appoint:
(1) Two individuals who are on the board of examiners for registered professional nurses, one of which is employed in a school of nursing;
(2) Two individuals that are employed as registered professional nurses in a hospital and who work primarily providing direct patient care;
(3) Two registered professional nurses who work as long-term care nurses, one of whom works in a nursing home and one of whom works for a home health agency, both of whom work primarily providing direct patient care;
(4) One administrator of a hospital in this state;
(5) One doctoral prepared nurse researcher;
(6) One nursing home administrator; and
(7) Two representatives of the public not currently or previously employed in hospital, nursing home or for a related entity.
(c) Members of the commission are not entitled to compensation for services performed as members, but are entitled to reimbursement for all reasonable and necessary expenses actually incurred in the performance of their duties. Six of the appointed members is a quorum for the purpose of conducting business. The board shall designate a chair, who is not a public official. The commission shall conduct all meetings in accordance with the open meeting law pursuant to article nine-a, chapter six of this code.
(d) The commission shall:
(1) Study the nursing shortage in West Virginia and ways to alleviate it, including, but not limited to:
(A) Evaluating mechanisms currently available in the state and elsewhere intended to enhance education, recruitment, and retention of nurses in the workforce and to improve quality of care;
(B) Assessing the impact of shortages in nursing personnel on access to, and the delivery of, quality patient care;
(C) Developing recommendations on strategies to reverse the growing shortage of qualified nursing personnel in the state, including:
(i) Determining what changes are needed to existing programs, current scholarship programs and funding mechanisms to better reflect and accommodate the changing health care delivery environment and to improve quality of care to meet the needs of patients;
(ii) Facilitating career advancement within nursing;
(iii) Identifying more accurately specific shortage areas in a more timely manner;
(iv) Attracting middle and high school students into nursing as a career; and
(v) Projecting a more positive and professional image of nursing.
(2) Report to the Legislature by February 1, 2002, its findings and recommendations on or before February 1 each year thereafter.