Florida faces potentially crippling nursing shortage
The healthcare industry is scrambling to head off a predicted nursing shortage that could be devasting to patient care.
“Baseline forecasts show that Florida will face a shortage of registered nurses by 2025 that is capable of crippling our healthcare system and reducing access to care for Floridians,” according to the Florida Center for Nursing, a workforce center established by state statute.
“Demand for nursing personnel is projected to increase dramatically as Florida’s large baby boom cohort reaches typical ages for retirement and begins to require more care for age-related conditions, and as healthcare reform increases the demand for more services. At the same time, more than 40% of Florida’s nurses are approaching retirement age within the next 10 years and there are not enough younger nurses to replace them.
“Resolving Florida’s nursing shortage will require a multi-pronged approach, including interventions to increase the production of new nurses, improve the work environment to retain existing nurses, and redesign work to accommodate the older nurse. Here you will find forecasts of Florida’s nursing shortage, strategies for addressing the shortage, and evidence for these strategies,” the report said.
“Relatively speaking, the situation is not as critical or pervasive in South Florida as it is in some other communities,” said Linda Quick, former president of the South Florida Hospital & Healthcare Association and now president of the Quick-Bernstein Connection Group, a consulting firm. “We have 12 to 20 public and private educational institutions that claim to be preparing people for nursing careers,” including for-profit nursing colleges that advertise widely.
“The shortage really is in experienced, tenured nurses in some special departments, and the only way you get there is to work in a hospital.”
To ramp up staff experience, some hospital systems are hiring newly graduated nurses and offering them scholarships to train in some specialty areas, provided the trainee agrees to remain with the system for an agreed-upon length of time.
“An additional strategy for patient care is the hiring of certified nursing assistants, or CNAs,” Ms. Quick said. “If you find people who have potential, a lot of institutions will train them or urge them to go back to school to become nurses. Baptist Health South Florida is putting ads all around aimed at CNAs, or even housekeeping and kitchen staffs, that say, ‘We’ll help you become a nurse while you keep working, and you’ll work for us in the new job once you’ve graduated.’ They’re looking for those inborn qualities that you bring to the table. The curriculum you can always learn, once you have those basic personality skills.”
A shortage also exists in skilled-nursing facilities such as nursing homes, she said. “Geriatrics is challenging, and not many people would choose that specialty.” Yet, long-term care will become increasingly important in light of longer life spans, observers say.
Ann-Lynn Denker, an advanced registered nurse practitioner and Ph.D., is uniquely qualified to address the skilled nursing issue. After having spent 38 years in various capacities in the Jackson Health System, she served from 2015 to 2017 as chief clinical officer for the Plaza Health Network, which operates rehabilitation and skilled-nursing centers.
“I always worked in pediatrics, and when I went to work in a network of long-term care facilities, it was an environment where there weren’t as many registered nurses and people with as much education. It was important to engage the staff and create a collegial environment.”
Part of the nursing shortage is related to burnout and subsequent attrition, she added. “Sometimes it takes a full year for a recent nurse graduate to feel comfortable, so they really need to feel supported. It’s a lot better to keep people than to have turnover, and with good working conditions they’re less likely to leave.”
In an effort to draw more nursing talent to the facilities, Dr. Denker says she liked to invite students to perform clinical rotations there. “You develop relationships with them, and they get a different perspective. I think it’s helpful for both the students and faculty. Working with staff, the students can see how they might make a difference.”