INDIANA (WTWO/WAWV) — Although health officials have said we are reaching an “endemic” phase, some health facilities across the state are having trouble filling the gaps of lost employees.

We have projected anywhere from 4,000 to 5,000 vacant, bedside, acute RN positions in the state of Indiana right now, so we’re not immune from that,” Rachel Spalding, Chief of Nursing for Good Samaritan Hospital, said.

House Enrolled Act 1003 went into effect on July 1st gives nursing programs some wiggle room so that they are able to increase enrollment.

Spalding, who also testified on behalf of the bill in Indianapolis, explained that part of the bill allows high passing nursing programs to replace some clinical hours, with simulation hours.

“When we talk about House Bill 1003, what that really aimed to do is really expand the pipeline of those that are interested in nursing as a profession to go ahead and enroll those individuals, expand our programs and really start working on that pipeline so that we can really address that workforce vacancy issue,” Spalding said.

Kim Cooper, Dean of the nursing school at Ivy Tech’s Terre Haute and Greencastle campuses said they accept students three times per year. She said if they have 60-80 spots available, they will likely have a few hundred applicants.

Cooper explained that House Enrolled Act 1003 will give their program more room to accept more students when previously, there may not have been enough clinical spots available.

“As any nursing program, we’ve been limited over the years because we can only add so many students. So many students because of qualified faculty, so many students because of available clinical space,” Cooper said.

Cooper said they have already started expanding their program, making it easier for people with prior medical experience to become a nurse.

“With that expansion, what we did was add a new program and that is medical assisting to RN. It’s allowing health care providers who have another credential to come into nursing and have a more expedited or abbreviated plan of study over three semesters,” Cooper said.

Current nursing student at Ivy Tech Don Smith said he has been an EMT for over 30 years, so he already has clinical-like experience.

However, he said replacing some of the clinical hours with simulation hours may relieve some pressure on nursing students.

“I think it is very helpful, especially for those who haven’t had that kind of experience before. It gives you the opportunity to work on patients and see what happens in real life without the thought of ‘oh I could potentially hurt this person,'” Smith said.

Cooper said she thinks this is a step in the right direction, but there is still a lot more than needs to be done in order to end the nursing shortage state-wide.

“We have to look at the number who are leaving as well as adding to the holes that we currently have,” Cooper said.

To read more about House Enrolled Act 1003, you can do so by clicking here.