INDIANAPOLIS – Nursing schools have started work to enroll more students now that a new state law is in effect.

House Enrolled Act 1003, which went into effect last month after it was signed by Gov. Eric Holcomb, aims to address the state’s shortage of nurses.

Community Health Network has roughly twice the number of job openings for nurses compared to before the pandemic, according to Jean Putnam, chief nursing officer for Community Health Network.

“When you have a shortage, and then you tie that into now you actually need more than you did before, it’s quite a complex kind of arrangement,” Putnam said.

The new state law allows nursing schools to enroll more students and hire more part-time faculty members.

“For the 2021-2022 academic year, we turned away 300 students who are qualified,” said Mary Jane Michalak, vice president of public affairs for Ivy Tech Community College.

Ivy Tech Community College is now working to grow its nursing class sizes by about 40% over the next three years, Michalak said. Being able to hire more part-time instructors will help make that happen, she added.

“We have started marketing to current nurses that they can come work for Ivy Tech on a part-time basis so that we can begin increasing that faculty,” Michalak said.

Nursing schools can also increase the number of simulation hours students perform in lieu of clinical hours, which can help in some situations.

“Especially for OB and mental health nursing and pediatric nursing, those are the most difficult clinical sites to get,” said Dorothy Gomez, dean of the Marian University Leighton School of Nursing.

Putnam said she considers the new law a first step in efforts to bring more Hoosiers into the profession.

“We really need to focus on funding for our nursing schools and other health care programs,” she said. “We have people who want to be nurses and want to work in health care but either aren’t accepted or there’s not room for them.”

The new law also allows foreign-educated nurses to obtain Indiana licenses more easily.

If lawmakers choose to make any changes to funding for nursing schools, that would happen early next year as they work on the new state budget.