Advisory team prescribes nursing staffing cure

Written by Monica Correa on April 11, 2023

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Advisory team prescribes nursing staffing cure

A statewide nursing advisory council, created to advocate for solutions to close the shortage of nurses suffered by Florida health care institutions, is advocating for greater funding to recruit more nursing faculty and partnerships with hospitals to provide more nurses.

More than 500,000 nurses are expected to be missing from health care positions in the nation by 2023, according to a study published by the American Journal of Medical Quality. The Florida Hospital Association estimates that Florida alone expects a shortage of 60,000 nurses by 2035.

The Florida Nursing Advisory Council, formed by Keiser University and educational and healthcare leaders last July, met at the Florida Capitol Building in Tallahassee on March 9 and recommended expanding the Linking Industry for Nursing Education (LINE) program and the Effective Access to Student Education (EASE) grants.

The LINE program, passed last year, establishes a competitive grant opportunity for universities and institutions that matches funds for institutions and health care providers to collaborate. The 2022-2023 funding granted more than $1.7 million to Nova Southeastern University, almost $950,000 to Barry University, more than $1.5 million to Miami Dade College, $75,000 to University of Miami, and funded other institutions across the state, according to the Florida Department of Education.

“The funding allows educational institutions to partner with providers for matching dollars,” said Gino Santorio, president and CEO of Mount Sinai Medical Center, who is a member of the council. “We, as a hospital, would partner with a university, providing staff to teach students, and in return, the state would match that amount of resource that we provide to build the pipeline of educators in the university setting, because the biggest issue is that, although nurses apply, there’s not enough educational slots available in the university setting, because there’s not enough teachers.”

The Effective Access to Student Education Program provides tuition assistance to Florida undergraduate students attending private universities if students meet certain criteria.
Other recommendations included supplementary higher education voucher grants, creating a competitive grant program for hospital staff to serve as preceptors at universities and educational institutions that teach nursing, other grants to increase faculty staff, and childcare for nurses at work, said Mr. Santorio.

Hospitals would partner with early learning coalitions to be able to provide childcare to bedside nurses, he explained.

“Our most pressing issues are related to the ability to train [nursing faculty], having enough faculty to be preceptors in the hospital setting, as well as to have enough faculty to teach at universities,” he said. “That’s the biggest challenge in ensuring that we have enough nurses in the pipeline.”

In January, the state announced $79 million for nursing education and healthcare partnerships, of which $19 million would be dedicated to LINE funding.

“The remaining funds that were allocated from the state span across a variety of other programs, but ultimately,” Mr. Santorio said, “I think that the legislative multimodal approach is really going to help solidify the ability to teach future in nurses.”

In March, the Senate Committee on Postsecondary Education and the Health Policy Committee voted to advance the “Camos to Scrubs” bill, which would create a pathway for military combat medics to become nurses. This is a plan that would encourage the partnership of educational institutions with hospitals to “establish a process for determining postsecondary course equivalencies and the minimum postsecondary credit or career education clock hours that must be awarded in accredited nursing education programs for military training and education required for service in specified positions,” according to the Florida Senate.

“We are squarely in support of that,” said Mr. Santorio. “We think that’s a huge opportunity, not only to help our military get into the workforce afterwards quicker, but also to help the hospitals and health care providers significantly by expanding that pool of available well-trained individuals to join the workforce.”

The good news is that, according to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity’s Regional Demand Occupational List, the nursing workforce in the state is expected to grow by more than 12,000 registered nurses and more than 4,000 licensed practical nurses from 2022 through 2023.

In addition, the Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida, which produces approximately 25% of registered nurses in the state and about half of all graduate level nurses, produced 3,600 nursing degrees in 2022.

Currently, Mr. Santorio said, the most under-staffed specialties in nursing are surgical services and cardiac catheterization labs.

In summary, he said, there needs to be more consistency in educational funding for the nursing pipeline. “A lot of the funding has been for pilot programs. Assessing the success of these pilot programs, and then putting recurring funding in to support the ones that prove fruitful, will be a great step forward for the state.”

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