With Florida facing a critical nursing shortage, St. Petersburg College (SPC) and its partners are taking a solutions-based approach to fix the problem.
To address the issue, SPC recently gathered more than 50 regional stakeholders – including leaders from hospitals, education institutions, nursing associations and government officials – to host the Taking Action to Address the Critical Nursing Shortage in Tampa Bay. During the event, SPC, along with Pasco-Hernando State College, State College of Florida and Hillsborough Community College, discussed solutions to problems contributing to the decline, which included hurdles with recruiting and hiring experienced nurses and nursing faculty; establishing work environments that promote job satisfaction and loyalty; the need for recurring state funding to address salary issues; and a lack of clinical site access.
The discussion follows a spring 2021 survey by the Florida Hospital Association which found that one out of four registered nurses and one out of three critical care nurses had left their jobs in the previous year. It also noted a 25 percent turnover rate, the highest over the past several years, and a projected deficit of 59,100 nurses in Florida by 2035.
“Everyone has been having solo discussions on how to address the nursing shortage,” said Dr. Louisana Louis, Dean of SPC’s College of Nursing. “This allowed us all to be in one room. It had not been done this way before, and that made all the difference.”
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 also creating an increase in turnover.
“In the middle of 2021, we asked hospitals to report vacancies and turnover,” said Cheryl Love, Chief Clinical and Patient Safety Officer at Florida Hospital Association. “Overall, there was an 11 percent RN vacancy rate in Florida over 12 months, which is higher than the national rate of 9.9 percent. We need to add more (nurses) than a couple thousand per year to mitigate the projected workforce shortage.”
SPC also outlined several solutions that could help ease nursing shortages, including increasing and allocating recurring funding from the state for educational technology, reimagining clinicals to explore alternative experiences, and getting more nurses out into the community.
“We are creating a special cohort in the summer for students who were not successful in their last semester to give them another opportunity to graduate early,” Louis added. “And we are working on implementing an evening and weekend program within the next year, which will produce more nurses.”