Florida Colleges, Hospitals Step Up Training To Address Nursing Shortage


Faced with increased staffing needs due to expansion, Sarasota Memorial Hospital is working with the University of South Florida to attract and retain nurses.

At a time when many employers struggle to fill vacancies, Sarasota Memorial seeks to improve its work environment, help nurses and students manage growing demands, and encourage nurses to stay in the profession.

“My goal is for people to want to come here because they see the healthy work environment. They are looking for investment in their well-being, their resilience, ”says Lisa Baumgardner, SMH’s director of education, clinical practice, magnet and research, who heads the hospital program.

With its new Nursing Excellence Program during COVID-19 and Beyond, which begins in spring 2022, SMH and the USF Health College of Nursing will work together to help nurses reduce burnout and stress .

“We will promote positive emotions with our overall goal of reducing stress, strategically reducing burnout and increasing well-being,” says Dr. Rayna Letourneau, program director at USF Health.

“We believe, and the evidence supports it, that if we have healthier nurses, they potentially stay in our workforce longer,” she adds.

The program includes small group coaching and a hiring preceptorship or mentoring program for students committed to work at SMH or its Sarasota Memorial Hospital-Venice Campus, which has opened its doors to emergency patients.

Its new Brian D. Jellison Cancer Institute was designed to screen, diagnose and treat a variety of cancers, including gastrointestinal, breast, lung and thyroid cancers.

Preceptorship provides nursing students with additional academic and clinical support, with the goal of hiring and retaining more nurses.

“Newly licensed RNs find it difficult to move from academia to practice,” Letourneau notes. “The turnover rates of newly registered nurses are higher than those of any other nursing population. “

After a six-month pilot project, USF faculty are expected to continue the primary SMH nurse program for two years.

The Excellence in Nursing during COVID-19 and Beyond program grew out of a desire to ensure the safety of local nurses and patients. David Kotok and Christine Schlesinger donated $ 115,000 for the pilot after a match challenge. A grant of $ 25,000 from the Gulf Coast Community Foundation and private donations and grants from the USF Foundation also helped fund the pilot.

The Sarasota Memorial Healthcare Foundation is raising funds for the two-year follow-up; he received a matching grant of $ 400,000 from the Charles and Margery Barancik Foundation.

SMH is now listed nearly 900 open positions, higher than its usual 500.

“We have recruited nearly a thousand employees for these [two new] facilities across the country, as well as from our Sarasota campus, so we are filling certain positions at our Sarasota campus, ”said Kim Savage, Public Information Officer / Public Relations Manager, Sarasota Memorial Health Care System.

Other nursing schools in the region are also trying to address the nursing shortage.

In search of solutions

Suncoast Technical College, which tailors training to the needs of students and SMHs, has trained 60 additional nursing assistants over the past year to address the shortfall.

“STC also designed and implemented a high school nursing program in which high school students graduate from high school and also complete the practical nursing program at the same time,” said Scott Kennedy, director of STC nursing, health program manager and civil service. “This is a one of a kind design in the condition to the best of our knowledge. In all, STC produces more than 250 nurses per year for the community.

For the first time in its history, Hillsborough Community College considering offering a bachelor’s degree. It is expected to start offering a bachelor’s degree in nursing in August 2022, said Leif Penrose, dean of health sciences at HCC.

The move, which comes as USF is phasing out its online RN completion program at BSN, is expected to increase the number of USF graduate nurses entering the workforce by 24%.

St. Petersburg College considering adding an evening / weekend program, scheduled for fall 2022, says Dr. Louisiana Louis, dean and professor at the College of Nursing at St. Petersburg College.

Nursing students may receive clinical training, followed by more immersive preceptorship before graduation. Yet the shortest route to employment as a registered nurse is an associate’s degree in nursing, followed by the licensing exam.

Some clinics hire patient care technicians while they are in school, notes Clare Owen, assistant dean of the St. Petersburg College of Nursing College.

Several factors explain the shortage.

“The number one limiting factor is the ability of nursing schools to place their students in hospital for clinical practice,” says Penrose. “It’s kind of a catch 22 for hospitals.”

The HCC already uses a fictitious hospital, called a simulation laboratory, with eight beds, a nursing station and a computer system for training.

COVID intensifies demand

But there are a number of other reasons as well: Nurses are drawn to higher-paying areas as COVID ramps up demand, some are rethinking their decisions to be nurses due to potential vaccine mandates, and students in Florida nurses typically perform poorly on their first attempt to pass the nursing license exam.

Some young nurses accept well-paid itinerant missions to repay their debts.

“For them, it’s the economy. … They’re not dumb, ”says Marcellyne M. Penny, Associate Dean of Nursing at HCC. “This is creating a shortage for our local markets.”

After an initial surge in interest in nursing after COVID, the HCC saw a slight drop in requests, due to concerns about vaccination warrants, Penny says.

Some gave up, others decided to wait and see if there would be any mandatory vaccines required for those working in the profession.

“We heard from people, which is why they chose not to apply,” says Penny. “There is some hesitation.

Another problem is the number of students who pass the National Council Licensure Exams, or NCLEX, on the first try. Florida has the lowest overall rank among states, according to sources.

“Everyone says the solution is more admissions, more admissions, more admissions,” says Dr. Louis. “How do you make sure they are successful? … It’s a national problem, but it’s even more of a problem for the state of Florida.

Florida’s registered nurse vacancy rate is 11 percent, higher than the national average of 9.9 percent, according to a report by Florida Nurse Workforce. Hillsborough and Pinellas counties are expected to have higher levels of registered nurses by 2035, according to this report commissioned by the Florida Hospital Association and the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida, an advertisement produced by IHS Markit.

The surrounding counties are expected to have an insufficient number of registered nurses.


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