By 2035, the Sunshine State will be short 60,000 nurses.
According to the Florida Hospital Association, 70% of hospitals in Florida are already experiencing critical staffing shortages. Adding even more pressure to the crisis, one in four nurses and one in three critical care nurses are resigning.
Key stakeholders in the education of Florida health care workers, including nurses, gave a presentation to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health & Human Services on Wednesday and took part in a panel discussion led by Chair Aaron Bean.
Panelists included Keiser University Vice Chancellor Belinda Keiser, Florida College System Chancellor Kathryn Hebda and Florida Hospital Association President & CEO Mary Mayhew.
“ICUF institutions are getting creative in order to train more nurses and have made investments in things like simulation labs and increased virtual learning,” Keiser said. “I’m pleased to say 82% of ICUF graduates who earned nursing degrees and received the Effective Access to Student Education (EASE) voucher stay in Florida.”
The panelists underscored the importance of partnerships and working together to reduce the shortage in nurses and other health care workers. The discussion identified current roadblocks and offered legislative suggestions to help clear them.
“There isn’t a higher priority today for our hospitals than addressing the magnitude of this workforce challenge,” Mayhew said. “The severity of this is a crisis our hospitals have not seen in decades. This requires an alignment between the workforce needs and the academic programs to respond to that need.”
Panelists representing both private and public institutions pointed to three main things that are hindering Florida’s ability to train and retain nurses.
Florida schools are struggling to find enough well-trained faculty members to provide a quality education to the next generation of nurses. As a result, schools are limited in the number of students they can admit into their programs.
Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida (ICUF) institutions produce 25% of Florida’s nursing degrees and 50% of Florida’s nursing educators. EASE is funded by the Legislature and provides qualifying students who live in Florida with $2,841 a year that they can use to pay tuition.
Keiser suggested the state consider increasing EASE voucher funding to help more students pursue degrees that would qualify them for jobs in the health care industry.
Another critical component in training quality nurses is access to hands-on training and experience, or clinicals. Mayhew committed to working with nursing programs to increase access to clinicals.
Competition between states is another factor contributing to the shortage. Florida is struggling to match the high salaries and incentives Florida nurses are being offered as traveling nurses, who can make up to $6,000 per week. The system is not sustainable, experts say, but it is making it hard to retain nurses.
At the conclusion of the panel discussion, Bean pointed out the magnitude of note-taking during the discussion, both among panelists and Senators on the committee.
“You have planted some strong seeds,” Bean said of the panelists.