Iowa House speaker Pat Murphy and other lawmakers paid a visit to University Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City Tuesday to highlight legislation passed on the final day of this year’s session. The bill earmarks this year’s Medicaid provider reimbursement increase to go directly to increasing the wages of registered nurses.

Murphy, a Democrat from Dubuque, says the one-percent increase could amount to five-point-one million dollars. Murphy says the wage increase is just a start in addressing Iowa’s nursing shortage. According to the Service Employees International Union, Iowa nurses rank near the bottom in the nation in terms of wages.

"Fifty-second out of 54 U.S. states and territories is not where Iowa should be," Murphy said. "Nurses care about one thing and that’s making sure that their patients get the best possible care they can. We want to make sure the state starts recognizing that care by making sure they’re paid adequately." Murphy says he believes raising the pay of nurses will keep more young people in Iowa – entering the profession.

"We addressed in the last two years the issue of teacher pay. Now, we also need to address what we can do to increase the pay of nurses in this state so we become more competitive and our young nurses that are graduating from our colleges, universities and community colleges can get the opportunity to receive the pay they so dearly deserve," Murphy said. According to the SEIU, Iowa is set to have a shortfall of 9,100 RNs by 2020. Union officials say the wage increase is a step toward reversing that trend.