Colorado’s nursing shortage is not new, but the pandemic deepened the crisis. Long hours, heightened stress, and unsupportive work environments are leading to increased burnout, with one study estimating that the state’s gap of around 6,000 nurses could rise to 10,000 by 2026. But this emergency hasn’t gone unnoticed. Here are three efforts underway to combat it.

1. Capitol Gains

As an emergency room nurse, state Senator Kyle Mullica knows the challenges front-line health care workers face. That’s why the Northglenn Democrat sponsored and helped pass two bills during the 2022 regular session. One set aside a portion of $61 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds to make community college free for aspiring nurses and other medical technicians through 2024. The other mandates that hospitals create committees to better manage workloads and combat burnout.

2. Those Who Can

Each year, tens of thousands of qualified applicants to U.S. nursing schools are turned away due, in part, to a lack of faculty. That’s because teachers make an average of $33,000 less than full-time nurses. This past fall, the Metropolitan State University of Denver upped all of its instructors’ pay by $2,100. MSU Denver has also reached out to six past pupils to work with current students in the school’s skills and simulation lab, thereby exposing alums to teaching without them having to sacrifice their full-time gigs (and salaries).

3. Teamwork

HealthOne, the largest health care system in the Denver area, is empowering nurses through continued education, team building, and leadership training. At its Center for Clinical Advancement in Englewood, an average of 135 industry professionals each week receive simulated trainings via high-tech mannequins who mimic real-life patients. Meanwhile, HealthOne’s Mobile Training Center travels to mainly rural hospitals in Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas, and Nebraska to teach advanced pediatric treatments.