It’s no secret that Florida is suffering from a major nursing shortage, with an estimated 17,000 vacant positions across the state, worsened by a booming population and demand for adequate healthcare. In an interview with The Capitolist, Florida Hospital Association (FHA) CEO Mary Mayhew explained how recent healthcare budget cuts passed by the Florida House and Senate could exacerbate the worker shortage.
FHA recently conducted a survey of its member institutions, finding an alarming Registered Nurse turnover rate of 25 percent, also noting turnover of over a third of its total critical care unit workforce. FHA projects a deficit of 59,100 nurses in Florida by 2035. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth for nurses in Florida is expected to grow by 21 percent, while 40 percent of nurses will approach retirement age in the next decade. The report also noted that stressful working conditions caused by the pandemic were creating an increase in turnover.
In the passed budgets, the state budget would reallocate $150 million in Medicare funding to the Department of Education.
“The funding that we receive for the care provided to patients helps to pay the salaries of the nurses, the doctors, the physical therapists, the respiratory therapists,” Mayhew said. “Cutting the funding to provide to the Department of Education is completely counterproductive in supporting Floridians and supporting our nurses who have been on the front line.”
Mayhew further expressed confusion as to why budget cuts were taking place.
“Typically you see a cut in a budget if a state has a financial challenge. The absolute opposite situation exists in Florida. Today the state has over $6 billion in unbudgeted excess revenue and $1 billion in surplus for the Medicare program,” said Mayhew. “We are curious what the problem is that they’re trying to fix when our reimbursement rates are already been far below the cost of providing patient care.”
In the current Legislative Session, several proposals regarding telehealth access have made their way through the Capitol. These measures would allow doctors and nurses to treat patients via their preferred telehealth means of communication and could play a role in mitigating and reducing the workload for inpatient nurses.
“Access to early intervention and care that can be managed successfully through a telehealth visit or remote monitoring, that could certainly reduce preventable use of the emergency department,” Mayhew said. “Part of the challenge, of course, is when people can’t get access to care, or they delay getting access to care and their conditions worsen, which requires preventable emergency department care. We’re thrilled that one of the silver linings over the last two years has been the skyrocketing of telehealth availability.”
Last month medical facilities sought additional government funding from both the state and federal levels in order to help subsidize their costs and provide learning outlets that can grant Floridians more attainable paths to nursing certification and education
“Florida is a quickly growing state, specifically in the 65+ demographic, creating a need for additional nurses and care providers,” Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida CEO Justin Senior said. “Workforce is a key issue for us, and this may be strange for a hospital to say, but we need to start looking at that education pipeline. The more teachers we can get in rooms educating, the better we can meet that demand we know is coming. So it’s hospitals focusing on education and our state university and state college systems and supporting that workforce to make it a little easier for that CNA to become an RNA without having to quit her job at the nursing home to continue her education.”