The Legislature of Alabama finds that there exists a critical shortage of registered nurses who are willing and able to provide health care to citizens in rural areas of Alabama. Such shortage is particularly acute in rural areas, and has a negative impact on the availability of care to low income and indigent citizens of Alabama who reside in rural areas. The Legislature further finds that there are many dedicated employees of the Alabama Department of Public Health who are disqualified from training as registered nurses solely by reason of their inability to finance the cost of attending school to obtain the requisite degree. Such employees are also prevented or retarded in career advancement because of a lack of education. It is the intent of the Legislature in adopting this chapter to address the nursing shortage in county health departments and in federally-funded community health centers in rural areas and to provide opportunities for career advancement for employees of the health department. Such a program will benefit both the State of Alabama and private sector employers by increasing the pool of nursing school graduates available to provide health care in Alabama.