Hospital officials, college leaders concerned about future nursing shortage

Hospital leaders fear Florida could face a significant nursing shortage by 2035. 

"Given the population growth in Florida, the demand for services, challenging nature of being a nurse. Over the next decade plus - forecast shortfall of nearly 60,000," said Dr. Mary Mayhew, President/CEO Florida Hospital Association.

That number is based on research commissioned by the Florida Hospital Association and Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida. 

It gives context as leaders try to fix the problem. 

"It certainly must be a multifaceted approach," said Dr. Mayhew, "First, we need to assess the number of new nursing graduates." 

"As future nursing students, we need to know the role we'll play," said Carole Briggs, UCF Nursing Student. 

Carole Briggs decided to pursue nursing after a health scare with her dad years ago. She said watching the staff care for her dad solidified her desire to join the field and serve another family in the same way. The junior at UCF is now one of thousands the state will rely on to plug the hole. 

"Stressful, but knowing my duty will make me work even harder," said Briggs.

College leaders believe more money could help because the desire is there. 

UCF College of Nursing reported a spike in applications during the pandemic and in a statement to Fox 35 noted: 

"UCF’s College of Nursing is very aware of the challenges facing the nursing profession today, and is actively collaborating with industry partners and state legislators to address them. Among those challenges is the nursing shortage. 

 For example, in 2016 we graduated 223 students who were eligible for initial nursing licensure. Thanks to funding from Parrish Medical Center and AdventHealth Northeast Division, we were able to expand enrollments on our regional campuses at Cocoa and Daytona Beach, as well as in our accelerated Second Degree Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program. These efforts increased the number of graduates to 268 in 2019 and to 262 in 2020. 

 As more funding becomes available, UCF intends to expand resources to accommodate a larger enrollment. We know the interest is there among students. We were encouraged this past year when UCF saw an unprecedented surge in applications to our College of Nursing – a trend that students told us was in part due to wanting to join in the fight against COVID-19.

 UCF produces the most new bachelor’s of science in nursing degrees (BSNs) of all 12 institutions in Florida’s State University System. We offer a traditional Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree, an accelerated Second Degree BSN, and a Concurrent Associate of Science in Nursing to BSN degree – all of which offer pathways for students to become first-time nurses."

The Florida College System Council of Presidents believes 60 million is needed for workforce development – with a cut specifically for health programs.

"To accelerate the provision of quality workforce education – and one of the prongs of that is healthcare," said Dr. Angela Garcia Falconetti, President of Polk State College and Chair for Council Presidents.

College leaders actually spoke before the Florida State Department of Education at the most recent board meeting about the issue and funding. 

Hospital staff says another priority is looking at what can be done with retention programs to try and get nurses to stay. 

Some students say an attractive incentive could include more competitive pay for hospital nurses compared to traveling nurses.