Florida’s Nursing Shortage Critical

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The nursing shortage in Florida is caused by a trifecta: Florida’s population is growing. It’s also getting older. And more people have health insurance. That’s driving demand for healthcare services, and just as there is a need for more physicians, there’s also a need for more nurses. Ten of Florida’s 12 public universities offer nursing programs. And many of the state’s community colleges do too. But Ed Morton, a member of the state’s university system has some questions for those presidents:

“We’re critically short of doctors, we’re critically short of nurses. I looked at 12 work plans, I didn’t see anyone talking about registered nursing. We’ve ceded to other schools and universities one of the fundamental, critical needs of the state of Florida.”

There’s a big demand for nurses with bachelor’s degrees. And while there are programs in nearly every college, each is different. Then there’s the problem of finding teachers. To teach a nurse you have to be a nurse. And to recruit teachers you have to pay them, says Kathy Robinson, a registered nurse and board of governors member.

“We’re starting them around $50,000, which is what our baccalaureate graduates get. A top professor…maybe 120-130 (thousand), which isn’t hard for a nurse practitioner to earn in regular practice.”

She says a nurse recently turned down a teaching offer because the salary was too low: There are also problems with access to clinical training spaces—private, for-profit schools often pay for space, but then they’re restricted in what they can do. Universities can do a lot in simulation labs, but need real-world training. Meanwhile, board member Deborah Jordan notes the nursing and physician shortage is not just a Florida problem.

“I have friends in Massachusetts…they can go wherever they want and work and ask for and demand a salary because they’ve been doing it a long time and they’re valued. They’re just not producing enough nurses.”

The Board of Governors plans to ask the Florida legislature for a one-time influx of 15-million dollars for a nursing faculty incentive program. The money would go toward recruiting and keeping nursing faculty at the state’s public universities.

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