The Senate passed last week a measure that provides qualified nursing students with scholarships at the Northern Marianas College in order to stimulate nursing enrollments at the lone community college of the CNMI.
Senate President Arnold I. Palacios’ (R-Saipan) Senate Bill 20-71 passed the senate in the form of SB 20-71, SS1, SD1 with a vote of 9-0.
S.B. 20-71 provides students who are U.S. citizens; a resident of the CNMI for three consecutive years prior to enrollment; and agree to work as a nurse at the Commonwealth Health Center, Tinian Health Center, or the Rota Health Center the opportunity to secure one of 20 scholarships worth $8,000 at NMC.
The CNMI Scholarship Office would provide the funding, according to the bill.
In exchange, a student who graduates under the scholarship is required to work for CHC as a nurse for a period that is dependent on the number of years that the student was able to receive the scholarship.
An amendment by Sen. Paul Mangloña (Ind-Saipan) to require a three-year rate per year of scholarship assistance for students who wish to serve as nurses for private clinics passed the Senate unanimously as well.
Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. special assistant for policy, sustainability, and development Kaitlyn Neises said on behalf of CHCC chief executive officer Esther Muña that the “forward-thinking policy” that is S.B. 20-71 was an investment to the labor pool of the CNMI and an investment to NMC.
NMC nursing program department chair Rosa M. Tudela was really appreciative of the Senate reviewing SB 20-71, a bill that could assist financially struggling students who choose to pursue a nursing degree at NMC.
Tudela recalls a student who has to work while studying, leaving him with only two hours of rest in between. She even shared her own experience at Minnesota as she was pursuing her nursing degree, where she was selling a liter of blood every three months to support herself.
According to Sen. Teresita Santos (R-Rota), who is also the chair for the Senate Committee on Health and Welfare, S.B. 20-71 would open a “golden window of opportunity” for students who have the potential but lack the resources to pursue a nursing degree.
“We must help build our local workforce and provide them the necessary resources to successfully graduate in the field of nursing,” she said in a statement.
Santos added that with the uncertainty of the CW-1 program, proactive measures must be taken in order to ensure critical services of the CNMI–such as the hospital–would continue to operate.
“We must recognize the vital role nurses play as the CNMI’s health care system evolves to expand access to care, improve quality, and reduce costs,” she said. “…It is incumbent upon us, as leaders of the CNMI to pay immediate attention to our health care professionals to ensure the survival of our public clinics and lone hospital.”
S.B. 20-71 now heads to the House of Representatives for action.