LEXINGTON, Ky. — Retention of nurses continues to be a nationwide issue and local issue.

Gov. Andy Beshear said Kentucky will need 16,000 more nurses by the year 2024. Many nurses are even deciding to work travel assignments that pay more.

Students from MedQuest College in Lexington will graduate in a few months, and they’re primed for the front lines of health care. 

What You Need To Know

  • MedQuest College in Lexington is a fast-track practical nursing program getting students to the front lines faster

  • Kathy Khoshreza serves as MedQuest College’s program administrator

  • Simone Bellmer is a MedQuest College student, mother and full-time employee of a local nursing home who’s looking to fulfill a passion of nursing school

It only takes twelve months to learn the ins and outs of practical nursing at the college.

Simone Bellmer is one of nearly 20 students in her cohort. She’s in the program as a career switch. Bellmer currently works at a local nursing home in Lexington, and said nursing is her passion.

“I’m going to start at the nose, earlobe,” Bellmer in class.

MedQuest College students are learning pediatrics. It was a tough lesson for Bellmer, a student and a mom of five. She’s wearing her late daughter’s name tattooed on her neck as a symbol of never forgetting what happened the day of Nov. 18, 2018.

“Three years ago, I lost my sixth child. She was a baby, and she was six months old. When she was born, she was in the NICU for a month,” Bellmer said. “Watching these nurses taking care of these little tiny tiny babies—it made me have a lot of respect for nursing.”

After her nightmare in 2018, Bellmer developed a love and appreciation for nurses and the experts instructing her to follow her dreams. That respect she gained for nurses is what Kentucky Nurses Association is asking for more of.

CEO Delanor Manson said nurses make up 53% of Kentucky’s workforce. During the pandemic, they’ve encountered heavier than normal work loads, leading to high quit rates.

It’s an issue the MedQuest program administrator Kathy Khoshreza said existed well before the pandemic.

“We’ve had a nursing shortage made worse by COVID-19, but we’ve had a nursing shortage for many years. So getting those people and getting the right people, being instrumental to that and seeing them succeed, that’s what keeps me going every day,” said Khoshreza.

On top of the nursing shortage, the industry is competing with travel contracts, from Lexington to Louisville and anywhere you can think of. Bellmer said she’s got her sights on it for her family’s finances.

“Of course the money, that’s the big incentive to travel. You could be in pediatrics one day, you could be at a nursing home another day, med surge floor at a hospital another day or weeks,” said Bellmer.

The need for nurses is expected to keep climbing through 2024, according to Beshear. Bellmer said it’s got to be the right people in the positions.

“If you have the heart to help someone and be on the front lines, then it’s for you. You’ve got to have care, love and compassion,” said Bellmer.

The American Hospital Association asked the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate staffing agencies a year ago that hire travel hospital staff. The Biden administration has since declined to speak publicly about the complaint.