Efforts to address the critical nursing shortage in the New Orleans area are paying dividends as more than 400 nurses have committed to continuing their practice in the city, and an additional 200 nurses have applied for funds to move to the region.

The awards are through the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals’ Greater New Orleans Health Service Corps program. The program requires that nurses who accept the awards stay in the New Orleans area for three years.

Nurses currently employed in the city will receive awards of $15,000 each for this commitment. Awards to displaced nurses recruited from other parts of Louisiana and nurses for other states will be $30,000 each. Due to the difficulty in recruiting nurses to the area, a higher incentive award was necessary to guarantee this commitment.

“The program received an overwhelming response from thousands of qualified registered nurses working to provide health care services in the New Orleans area,” said Dr. Roxane A. Townsend, LDH Secretary. “The federal government gave LDH the flexibility to maximize the grant funding to provide recruitment and retention incentives to the largest number of nurse applicants, thus we will be able to make awards to 600 nurses.”

Townsend continued, “We were able to get commitments from 400 professionals who have agreed to remain in the area,” she said. “Additionally, we have 200 slots available to recruit nurses who were displaced by Hurricane Katrina and nurses interested in moving to the to New Orleans area from other parts of the country.”

This summer, more than 2,500 nurses applied for funding through the program.  Letters notifying applicants of their award status are in the process of being mailed.  As of today, more than 400 notification letters have been sent. The program will continue to respond to all remaining applicants by mail.

Townsend said all unfunded applications will be kept on file through September 2009 and will receive priority if additional funding is made available.

Since the program began in April 2007, LDH has issued award notices totaling $23 million of the program’s $50 million grant to provide incentive funding for approved applications.

Retention funding still is available for medical, dental and allied health faculty. Recruitment funding is available for all eligible practice types.  Applications for these funds will continue to be accepted until all funding is allocated. 

The Greater New Orleans Health Service Corps offers incentive packages for loan repayments, income guarantees, malpractice premium payments and relocation expenses.

To download the program policy and application, visit www.pcrh.dhh.louisiana.gov. Call toll-free at 877-345-0579 or e-mail gnohsc@dhh.la.gov for additional information.

Funding for the incentives is provided through two federal grants totaling $50 million by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The grants were announced in January and May of this year. Information about these grants can be found at www.hhs.gov/louisianahealth.