Industry leaders, state lawmakers deliberate healthcare professional shortage

by | May 16, 2023

  • Healthcare industry leaders and state lawmakers convened at a panel hosted by Molina Healthcare to discuss the nursing shortage in Florida.
  • The panel highlighted the severity of the shortage, attributing it to factors such as population influx and the aging population, leading to inadequate care for the state’s residents.
  • Measures discussed during the panel included universal licensure to attract healthcare professionals, legislative efforts to address the shortage, and the need for increased nursing education capacity.

Healthcare industry leaders and state lawmakers convened on Tuesday to speak at a panel hosted by Molina Healthcare where the ongoing nursing shortage was dissected, offering insight into the progress and measures enacted to lessen its severity.

When compared to other occupations facing comparable shortages, the nursing scarcity posits a heightened severity, attributable to the influx of people relocating to Florida. Presently, the number of working nurses is incapable of offering adequate care to the state’s ballooning, aging population. Moreover, as the demand for nursing personnel escalates, salaries needed to retain practitioners have also grown.

David Sobush, Director of Research for the Florida Chamber Foundation, referred to the shortage as a market crisis. According to a Florida Hospital Association study conducted last year, it was found that the turnover rate for Registered Nurses statewide is an alarming 25 percent, with a further projection forecasting a deficit of 59,100 nurses by 2035.

Aligned with the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s ‘2030 Blueprint,’ which aims to position the state as the world’s tenth-largest economy by the decade’s end, the organization is working to facilitate healthcare providers’ access to an available and qualified workforce statewide.

“We can’t wish our way there,” he said. “We’re not going to grow our economy if employers can’t hire the people they need.”

Sen. Jay Collins, who spoke at the event, touched on universal licensure as a potential means to bring more than a million new working healthcare professionals into the state. Collins, alongside Rep. Traci Koster, worked to craft legislation that would allow employers to recognize occupational licenses from other states, based on the training or testing requirements a licensed applicant has already completed.

Under the pieces of legislation, a state agency, board, or department would be granted the right to issue industry licenses pending the satisfaction of several requirements, including good standing in the worker’s state of origin. The recipient of a Florida occupational certification would be required to have held an equivalent license in their previous state for at least one year.

In the bill’s purview, a state board would also be permitted to issue licensure if a candidate fulfills sought experience standards based on work in another state or service in the military.

“We have to draw [healthcare workers] in,” said Collins. “When you really look at what’s creating the problem in drawing them in, it comes down to licensure. We have had dozens and dozens of calls from providers around the country who want to come to Florida because of our economy, and because of our ability to do fantastic healthcare in a way that’s empowering our providers. But the licensing bodies wouldn’t get out of the way.”

Following three committee stops that unanimously approved of Collins’ measure, it failed to pass a floor vote in the House, though he stated that lawmakers will sustain efforts to enact similar licensure systems in the future.

Assistant Dean of Nurse Anesthesiology at the University of South Florida (USF) Michelle Canale supplemented concerns regarding the shortage from an educational standpoint, speaking to the lack of qualified nursing faculty at educational institutions.

“We’ve been unable to increase our enrollment until very recently, and that’s due to a shortage of nursing faculty,” said Knapp. “The need for advanced practice nurses is outpacing supply and is forecasted to continue to do so for many years to come.”

USF, however, was able to add ten learner seats per year, according to Canale, which amounts to a 20 percent increase in enrollment, making it one of the largest programs in the country.

Similarly, Florida State University announced last month that it accepted its largest undergraduate cohort in the college’s history, with 150 students scheduled to begin the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program in the Fall 2023 semester.

Long-term care facilities have also faced challenges in maintaining sufficient staff levels, which have only proliferated since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Workforce Liaison for Florida Health Care Association Kristen Knapp pointed to several pieces of legislation adopted during this year’s legislative session including the creation of several new medical positions like the qualified medication aide, which can provide higher wages to workers.

The nursing shortage in Florida is a result of high demand for healthcare services, an aging nursing workforce, limited nursing school capacity, and a competitive job market. With a large population and a significant elderly population, the demand for nursing care is high. However, the retirement of experienced nurses and limited nursing education resources make it difficult to fill the gap. This shortage puts a strain on existing nurses, compromises patient care, and requires a multi-faceted approach to improvement.

Potential solutions discussed during the legislative session included increasing nursing education capacity, implementing recruitment and retention initiatives, promoting nursing as a career, and enacting supportive legislation.


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