A simple solution to fix Florida’s nursing pipeline

We need a more positive approach: a carrot, not just a stick.

Skilled nurses are a treasure. But in Florida, they’re becoming more challenging to find. The state has grappled with a nursing shortage for years, which only worsened during the pandemic as burnout drove nurses from the profession.

Adding to the problem is the retirement of baby boomer nurses and the difficulty of recent graduates transitioning from nursing school to professional practice.

Less than two-thirds of Florida nursing students passed the national licensing exam last year. This is disturbing news for all Floridians because the Florida Hospital Association predicts a statewide shortage of 60,000 nurses by 2035.

Lawmakers took a step to address the issue last year by providing $79 million to Florida’s high-performing public nursing schools through two programs designed to ease the state’s nursing shortage. The funds will be used to award scholarships, recruit faculty and train more nurses.

These nursing schools at Florida’s state colleges and universities — from Florida International University to Pensacola State College — have an excellent track record of producing quality nurses who largely pass their licensure exams soon after graduation. However, last year’s funds only helped public institutions, which have limited slots to address the growing need for nurses and can’t scale up quickly enough to bridge the gap. More needs to be done.

Interestingly, Florida doesn’t actually need more nursing schools. The state has plenty, but most are private, for-profit nursing colleges.

Unfortunately, as a Florida Center for Nursing report found, only 52.8% of those schools’ graduates passed licensure exams last year, leaving almost half unable to work as nurses in Florida.

The Florida Board of Nursing can put the worst-performing schools on probation. However, that’s not enough to motivate many for-profit nursing schools to focus less on handing out diplomas and more on training students to pass licensure exams.

We need a more positive approach: a carrot, not just a stick.

The state must take meaningful steps to ensure a higher percentage of these students pass their licensure exams. One sensible solution is to incentivize ALL nursing schools, public and for-profit alike, with additional funding if at least 70% of their students become licensed nurses. This is a simple way to reward the best-performing nursing schools, regardless of their corporate status, and ensure Florida has enough nurses to care for its residents.

Florida should highlight those for-profit nursing programs already producing quality nursing graduates, like Galen College of Nursing, Chamberlain University, Jersey College, Miami Regional University, Rasmussen University and West Coast. These for-profit schools achieved a 70% or higher passage rate last year, ranking them equal to or better than many public colleges.

Some, like Galen College, are accredited by the same organizations as the state’s most prestigious programs.

These top-performing schools can expand rapidly in Florida’s highest-demand markets.

For instance, Rasmussen already has four campuses in Florida (Tampa, Pasco, Ocala, Ft. Myers), while Galen added new Sarasota and Gainesville campuses in 2022. For-profit schools with low pass rates should look to these nursing schools as role models and new monetary incentives can further their growth.

Florida must do everything possible to support quality nursing schools, so we can all have quality nurses there to care for our loved ones (or us) when needed. Providing incentives for schools whose students pass their licensure exams and become quality nurses is what our state needs to repair its leaky nursing pipeline.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises Media and is the publisher of FloridaPolitics.com, INFLUENCE Magazine, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Previous to his publishing efforts, Peter was a political consultant to dozens of congressional and state campaigns, as well as several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella. Follow Peter on Twitter @PeterSchorschFL.


  • Rob Desantos

    March 22, 2023 at 12:14 pm

    Nurses leaving Florida, just like doctors leaving Texas: these are the natural and deserved consequences of the instrusive and unreasonable medical legislation coming from these too-red states.

  • Mike Jeffers

    March 24, 2023 at 11:41 am

    Agree with this 100%

    How can Florida claim to be pro biz, and at the same time exclude private businesses from incentives, solely because they turn a profit? Instead, we give more $$ to woke universities?

  • Eben

    March 25, 2023 at 7:58 am

    The bigger problem is FSU and UF, which have the best and brightest high school students the State has to offer- severely limits the number of students from every class who can be admitted in nursing tract education. Average incoming freshman class at UF/FSU is 7,000 students of which about 1,000 apply for nursing and 150 are accepted each year. Those schools turn away roughly 800 qualified candidates every year. Other schools like UCF, USF and FAU admit freshman directly into their nursing programs but they are still too small. Make the programs bigger, hire more nursing teachers. Medical Education loves scarcity it helps keep wages and prices up!

  • Anon

    March 26, 2023 at 8:40 pm

    Posting this anonymously.

    The reason why the shortage is happening is because of the hospitals refusal to increase our. The pandemic stole all the experienced nurses to go and travel for the high pay and years later nothing has changed. We have new graduates training new graduates then after 1 year they quit to travel because the pay is so low they can’t afford to rent anywhere. This cycle repeats endlessly. The hospital system is broken and the issue is not more nursing schools, you need to keep the nurses that graduate here. When I graduated nursing school more than half said they were leaving the state because of the pay.

    If hospitals stopped being cheap and paid nurses better they would keep experienced nurses, be able to have safe patient to nurse ratios and have happy employees which then create happy patients. Over the last two years the cost of living in Orlando increased ‘more than 50% and the only raise us nurses got was a raise from $29 to $32 over two years which is basically the normal raise one would get for gaining experience. Hospitals never once increased pay because of inflations.

    Right now nurses can’t strike. It’s illegal in Florida which means we can’t negotiate better pay. The only thing we can do it quit and we’re doing it in masses. The hospital system is going to break very soon. Hospitals care more about profit than they do patients because if they don’t increase the pay to attract more nurses the current nurse patient ration PCU is 8 to 1 will cause more patients die or have missed diagnoses. Back in 2020 the ratio was 4:1.

    The fact that hospitals are willing to stay understaffed to keep the pay low she’s how evil the CEO’s of all Florida hospitals are. The system here is systemically broken and the anti striking law only benefits them.

Comments are closed.


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