KILLEEN, TX — There was already a predicted shortage of nurses before the COVID-19 pandemic began. Now experts say the pandemic has created an even greater need.
This National Nurses Day, some Central Texas nurses say they could not think of a better time to be a nurse than right now.
Registered Nurse Brittany Walker is working on the frontline of the coronavirus pandemic.
"Like your whole life is flipped upside down, compared to what it was for the past year and all throughout school and stuff, so it's definitely some eye opening," said Walker.
Just over five years of nursing school left Walker with a loan debt of around $40,000, some of which she has been able to pay off.
"I've heard other nurses, working with them, that their degree cost $90,000, $60,000 depending on what type of school they went to," she explained.
The cost may be discouraging for some. The Texas Center for Nursing Workforce Studies projects the state will see a shortage of nearly 60,000 full-time registered nurses by the year 2030.
"World Health Organization just declared that they need 6 million nurses to facilitate this nursing shortage, so they're crying out," said Georgia Dixon, the director and owner of Life Healthcare Academy.
The nurse practitioner says nurses are needed now more than ever.
"Get into school. Start applying. This is the best time," said Dixon.
A new bill introduced in the House of Representatives could be an incentive for nurses to hold tight and for others to join the nursing workforce. The bill would forgive student loans for healthcare workers treating COVID-19 patients.
"Peace of mind. It also encourages us to work," said Dixon, who is hopeful the bill will pass.
"It would be amazing," she said.
The Student Loan Forgiveness for Frontline Health Workers Act would allow health care workers treating COVID-19 patients to apply for complete student loan forgiveness.
The bill must pass the committee and receive a majority vote on the House floor before moving on to the Senate. Then, the Senate would needs to pass the bill with a two-thirds vote. That's when it can be signed into law by President Trump.